Halfway There!

We’re halfway through our unprocessed challenge!  I’m using this opportunity to take a break from the guest posts today for a few announcements.  (Don’t worry, the guest posts will resume tomorrow).

Incredibly, nearly 3,000 people have taken the pledge! If you found out about the challenge after October 1st, it’s not too late. (It’s never too late). Please sign the pledge, and join us for the rest of the month (or for 30 days starting today).

I’d like to give a huge thanks to all the guest authors so far, and to the ones still to come. Please be sure to visit their websites, show your appreciation in the comments, and befriend them on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll find a list of this year’s guest posts in the sidebar of every page on Eating Rules, and you can go here for an index of the posts from last year.

Some Sponsorship Love

Healthy Surprise

I’m thrilled to announce that Healthy Surprise is now an official sponsor of October Unprocessed!

Healthy Surprise is a new service that sends a monthly care package of healthful snacks, bars, and other goodies.  Joe Winke, the founder, hand-selects the vegan, gluten-free snacks, and each month it’s a  little different — hence the surprise!  It’s a fun and super-convenient way to discover new, healthy treats.

Joe and I have teamed up to offer a custom box of goodies specifically for the October Unprocessed challenge. Your first box will be filled with snacks that all pass the kitchen test with flying colors. How cool is that?

Even better, use coupon code UNPROCESSED to get 20% off your first month!  (Don’t worry, there’s no commitment — you can cancel at any time.)

I think Healthy Surprise is really cool, and am sure you’re going to like it, too. I especially like that most of the snacks come from small, family-owned companies — not from “Big Food.” If you sign up I’ll earn a small commission, so you’ll be supporting Eating Rules and October Unprocessed. Sure seems to me like it’s a win-win-win-win (that’s you, me, Joe, and the small family companies).

So go to Healthy Surprise right now and sign up today!  Thanks.

The Unprocessed Wiki

There’s been a lot of discussion of how to define “unprocessed” and how, exactly, to apply the Kitchen Test.  The questions (and answers) have ended up scattered in quite a few locations.  I’m hoping we can bring it all into one place, creating a definitive collection of unprocessed answers. To do this, though, I need your help. (It’s all I can do to keep up with all the guest posts right now!).

I’ve set up an October Unprocessed Wiki. Just like Wikipedia, anyone can add or edit pages. I’ve already brought over some info, but there’s still a lot more to do.

Maybe someone can start by copying over some of the existing conversations from my two original “defining unprocessed” posts, here and here. (Don’t forget to check the discussion in the comments sections).  If you have expertise on a specific ingredient, or have found some brands you love that pass the kitchen test, please contribute and help share your knowledge.

Time for a Check-In

Okay, so now it’s time for a check-in. How has your experience been so far?  Easy?  Hard?  What’s the most exciting thing you’ve learned or discovered?

In the spirit of supporting each other, I’m hoping you will share one “actionable” morsel that you’ve learned so far this month. Leave a comment on this post and share some of your new-found unprocessed wisdom with everyone. Or maybe it’s simply a link to a recipe that you want to share. Or something else that folks may find useful or helpful. (Or, if you’re just downright frustrated, let us know that, too — and maybe we can help.)

Okay, ready?  Go!

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26 Comments on "Halfway There!"

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Sherry H
so far, so good, and I have lost eight lbs. I would like to say that I am defining unprocessed mostly as “if it has a label, I am probably not going to eat it”. My exceptions to this are, I am making my own bread, and flour and such has labels, but I am buying whole wheat and unbleached bread flours by king arthur, using honey instead of sugar to feed my yeast, and adding oats and flax seed. My husband (and my dogs!) like this bread much better than store bought, anyway. I am also using milk products with no RgBH. We have many local sources of food in our county, to include grass raised and finished beef, although I must say, I am finding that I am not wanting much meat these days. Most of my food is coming from the farmers market, from people I know,… Read more »

I am a total sucker for snacks so I just signed up for a box. Love that idea!

This month I’m finding that although I thought I regularly ate mostly whole foods, it turns out I was wrong. There’s a little bit of “processed” in much of what I eat. Also, I’ve learned that just because I buy something at Trader Joe’s doesn’t mean it’s healthful.

The most exciting thing I’ve discovered is that my husband likes kale!


If someone else did the dishes for me, I would love cooking so much better. Anyway, one day I prepared marinara sauce using tomatoes from my garden. Boy, was that time-consuming. I made the mistake of planting the kind of tomatoes that were small. All that flash boil and peeling and chopping and removing seeds. Whew! Next year, I’m planting the larger kind. My daughter did say that she loved the smell of the sauce while it was simmering.


I make marinara sauce out of homegrown tomatoes, and I guess it’s the lazy way, but if you put them through the food processor, the pieces become so tiny that you can just cook them without any peeling and seeding. Perhaps not quite as smooth, but so much more likely that you’re going to want to do it again! (I know what you mean about the dishes….we have noticed the increase!)

Jacqueline Gonzales

I learned just how much processed food I eat AND how hard it is to give it up when your family isn’t interested. My family isn’t specifically participating, so I’ve stumbled a lot these last two weeks.

Amanda - RunToTheFinish

The first 10 days went really well! Then I went to a work conference and all of my planning, just couldn’t prepare me to say no to sugary treats in the afternoon. However, i fee like I still was 80% unprocessed during an entire week of travel!!

I did that by finding a grocery store to stock the mini fridge, eating eggs with veggies at breakfasts and salads for lunch.

Ok, I’ll be the first to break the factory-made ice: I feel like I’m failing this challenge. We ate fairly unprocessed before October began, so I was gung-ho to take it further: bake my own bread, make my own crackers, eliminate the processed goods we knowingly use. However, perhaps I set my bar too high, for I fell down a processed hole and ate some street food at a local festival (cheesesteak, apple dumpling w/ice cream, and I even had a Nestea–I thought I was ordering real iced tea, to my credit)! I’ve been ignoring the fact that my son’s snack crackers aren’t as great as homemade…sigh. I’m a perfectionist and I HATE that I’m not nailing this! On the other hand, I’m getting better at preparing better meat after being veg for so many years, and I *have* made bread, pizza dough, and crackers at least once a week.… Read more »
Don’t worry, Gretchen. I feel the same way. Our family eats a lot of homemade foods to begin with, but I’ve gotten bogged down with not using the things considered “processed” here, like sugar, soy sauce, and those “extra” ingredients I never even thought about before. Here is where I am at: My eyes have been opened. Since I’m not about to waste everything in my pantry, I have decided to use October to focus on trying to be as unprocessed as possible and when I do use something that doesn’t pass the test, I resolve to not buy it again, or at least to try to find something more natural for our family, i.e. graham crackers, which are a must in our house and time-consuming to make, especially since I already make from scratch so much else, like our bread. I’m using this challenge to serve me, not for… Read more »

I agree. While I’ve mostly been unprocessed this month, there have been a few things I’ve fallen short of like the soy sauces and sugars. But looking at the ingredients and finding alternatives are all steps in the right direction. I look at this challenge as a way to open your eyes to new things and try alternatives to what you’re used to. No one’s being graded. I think it’s all about what you can do and what you feel comfortable doing.

As for the slow cooker, love mine for the same reason. A toddler defintely makes cooking a little bit more of a trial and my slow cooker is a huge help!


We ate mostly unprocessed–and local, and organic–before this, so I thought it would be easy. I’ve learned two things: there are so many “little” processed things in my life/fridge (think: ketchup, soy sauce, those little shell-shaped pasta) and I can’t say NO when a relative invites me over for dinner!

We are SO much more aware, and instead of beating ourselves up, I have begun step by step switching my family over to homemade lacto-fermented ketchup (delicious!)and other condiments. I now know how to make hot sauce and amazing fruit vinegars!

Still struggling with the answer to grandma’s pumpkin pie (full of white sugar, in a white flour crust, of course!) and other special occasions!

Joe Winke

Glad to hear everyone is taking the challenge and succeeding! I’m really excited to partner with Andrew and bringing Healthy Surprise to everyone. We’re still working on finalizing the list of ingredients for the unprocessed box, does anyone have any special requests or suggestions?

I have a request for the unprocessed box!!! I am having so much trouble finding dried fruit with no added sugar or preservatives of any kind. We don’t have a Trader Joes here and the new Whole Foods hasn’t opened yet, so I am kind of stuck. I am going to try my hand at dried apple crisps soon, but I would still love to have a fruit and nut snack that was wholly unprocessed! Also, I feel as if I am failing this month. The first week I did really well and then life got in the way and I have just gone downhill a bit. I live with my parents and they are not on the unprocessed band wagon, so being a poor graduate student I can’t exactly refuse a meal they are offering just because it isn’t unprocessed! I have tried to start making some of the… Read more »
Joe Winke

Hey Jennifer,

We have a lot of dried fruit products without any added sugar in our boxes. They include dried fruits, freeze-dried fruits and some fruit products (like ‘fruit leathers’).

Hope you check us out 🙂



It is harder than I thought, because (1) my oven is broken and (2)I find myself traveling and/or needing to attend business dinners. If I drive to my long distance destination, I can pack smart snacks. Otherwise, eating it truly a challenge. But, I am making it work. I have lost some weight, so that is never a bad thing. :)I am excited to continue, even beyond October! Thanks Andrew!

This was pretty new to us so we decided to pledge for two weeks to begin with — we mostly made it 😛 We did have a few “oops – that was processed” for a couple of ingredients as we were making meals. It seemed to take a lot of my brain power to really think through meals and figure out what was unprocessed or how I could tweak a recipe to make it unprocessed — but surprisingly once I did that, the cooking unprocessed wasn’t as hard as I thought. (Though I will agree that the dirty dishes have multiplied these past 2 weeks! :-P) My husband has loved making his own dough for a lot of our meals so that was a fun discovery – I’ve loved seeing the recipes shared here; I haven’t made any of them yet, but I have them bookmarked to go back and… Read more »

Once you know what to look (out) for, eating unprocessed is not that difficult. I am in the middle of Micheal Pollan’s ‘The Omnivores Dilemma’ and that is definitely making it easier to eat unprocessed foods. When you know what is behind the processed food you eat you will be horrified.

Go grass fed, or go vegetarian!

Jennifer @ Raisin Questions

I’ve noticed just in the last few days that I am not constantly hungry like I used to be when eating processed foods and refined sugars, and I am satisfied quicker when eating a meal. This is great! The other great thing I realized is that making full whole wheat flour substitutions is not as big of a deal as I have heard it made out to be. As mentioned in the guest post earlier this week, all flour used to be whole wheat!


Like some others I did not think this would be hard since I have been making a conscious effort for a number of years to eat organic (and mostly vegetarian). At a workshop last week, I stuck my hand into a bowl of halloween candy and ate a few pieces before thinking. Oops.


I’ve lost 4 lbs doing this. This is bad. I’m now underweight by BMI; I’d been trying to put on about 10 lbs, was up 5, and now it’s gone again. Help! Breakfast is the big problem; I’ve switched to steel-cut oats from my more processed spoon-sized shredded wheat, and now I’m very hungry within 2 hours. My old breakfast stuck longer…