Blogger Spotlight: Lisa Leake from 100 Days of Real Food

Join Food Network in discovering the best healthy bloggers around the web. Today we're talking to Lisa Leake from 100 Days of Real Food.
Lisa Leake is the woman behind the popular blog, 100 Days of Real Food. As a mother of two, she and her husband pledged to go 100 days without highly-processed or refined food in 2010. Since then, she has challenged others to follow her family's healthy lead by taking a 10-day pledge or committing to “100 days of mini-pledges.”  Her blog offers tips on meal planning, packing school lunches, shopping for real food and more. 
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your commitment to real food. Why did you start and how did you decide on the 100 day pledge?

Like many others I always knew eating whole grains and vegetables was supposed to be good for you, but the problem was I never truly understood the "why" behind this advice. I became intrigued by the topic after seeing Michael Pollan discuss where our food comes from in a TV interview, and then I went on to read his book In Defense of Food. What came next was a huge wake-up call for our family when I realized what I thought were healthy food choices were actually highly processed and not good for us at all. It wasn’t easy at first, but I felt compelled to completely revamp the way we planned our meals, shopped for food and cooked.

I also felt compelled to spread this important (and shocking!) message to others, which is why we decided to create our 100 Days of Real Food pledge. Cutting out highly-processed food was honestly not easy for us at first and even kept me up at night. I thought my kids might starve if Goldfish, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and Gogurt were suddenly out of the picture.  So once we figured out how to realistically make the transition to real food it just made sense to share our research, tips, recipes and experiences with others to hopefully inspire them to do the same.

What exactly is “real food” and what do you consider being the most important rule?

In the most basic terms, we define real food as having 5 or less whole ingredients. If I had to pick one rule as being the most important I would probably say avoiding refined grains. The reason is because refined grains seem to be EVERYWHERE these days (in cereals, pastas, breads, crackers, snacks foods, etc.). They make up the majority of most processed food products so people end up consuming a considerable amount of refined grains throughout the day, which are nutritionally inferior to whole grains. You’re better off replacing those foods with whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

After your first successful pledge, your family committed to “100 Days on a Budget” to prove that it’s possible to eat real food without breaking the bank. Was this pledge more challenging than the first?

Actually, yes! I am a spender at heart (on food, at least!) and even though I only gave a half-hearted attempt, I never got the hang of using coupons or following store sales. I remember one time during our budget pledge I had to take a picture of my fridge because it looked empty even though I’d just finished our food shopping for the week! Even so, we survived the pledge and were never short on food (nor did we over-spend). When it came to putting meals together, creativity was my biggest ally.

Do your kids miss all the processed snack food they used to eat, or are they content with their healthy lifestyle?

When we are home my kids hardly even remember all that processed junk exists (well, except for when the loud ice cream truck drives by!). There is a social aspect to eating certain foods though so now that our strict pledge is over we do let our children occasionally indulge in processed food especially when at birthday parties or other celebrations. When nothing special is going on we make a point to let them pick out one special treat a week (like homemade chocolate chip cookies). If it were to happen every day it would no longer be special.

On your site, you show that eating healthy doesn’t mean always having to eat salads. What’s your favorite meal to prepare for your family?

That’s right. Eating real food is not about surviving on tofu and bean sprouts (not that there’s anything wrong with those foods!), but instead we get to enjoy nourishing meals made from high-quality, whole ingredients. It’s hard for me to pick one favorite meal, but if I could instead pick a category I would have to say Mexican food. We love everything from fajitas to quesadillas (pictured above) to refried beans, guacamole and  homemade salsa. I don’t think we’ve ever not been in the mood for Mexican. To get a better idea of what we eat on a regular basis check out our 5 free real food meal plans that include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and corresponding shopping lists (with pricing).

What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for people wary of changing up their diets?

I highly recommend spending 90 minutes of your time watching the documentary Food, Inc. so you can also understand the why behind making the change. Then start small so you don’t get overwhelmed…consider tackling one meal of the day at a time and remember that even small changes are better than none. Also don’t forget to use our blog as a resource; that’s the reason we created it!

You can follow Lisa on Facebook for updates and more healthy tips.

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