Way back in October of 2009, I was struck by a simple idea:
What would happen if I went for an entire month without eating any processed foods?
This question would have been laughable (or even nonsensical) just a few decades ago. Nowadays, it seems that almost every food that comes with an ingredients list on it is likely to be laden with extra sugar, fat, and salt. And preservatives. And flavorings. And artificial colors.
I’m not okay with this.
So I tried it, along with a few good friends: A month of no processed foods.
It was revelatory. My expectations and sense of taste were re-calibrated. I started to identify individual ingredients in the foods I ate. I didn’t crave those salty snacks. I found myself often in the kitchen, excited to see what I could cook next. Above all, I simply felt better.
We took turns hosting small dinner parties, and shared our stories and experiences. It brought us closer together. Funny how real food does that.
In 2010, I decided to try it again, in a bigger way. I had started Eating Rules just a few months before, and I reached out to my fellow foodies, bloggers, and friends, and issued the challenge again. By the end of October, 415 people took the pledge and got this movement really started. We’ve grown each year since then — by now, more than 30,000 people have joined in.
Although it’s a lot of work to make this project happen, I want to do it again. It’s just too important not to. And I want to share this experience with as many people as possible. Not just my experience, but our experience.
Together, let’s see how many people we can get to eat no processed foods whatsoever during the month of October.
And then let’s see what happens.
The “Kitchen Test” Definition
The first question I’m always asked is, “How do you define unprocessed?”
Obviously there’s a wide range of implications in that word, and we will probably each define it slightly differently for ourselves. My definition is this:
Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.
I call it “The Kitchen Test.” If you pick up something with a label (if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably unprocessed), and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen and couldn’t possibly make yourself from the whole form, it’s processed.
It doesn’t mean you actually have to make it yourself, it just means that for it to be considered “unprocessed” that you could, in theory, do so.
Here’s a more in-depth discussion of the definition, and we’ll continue exploring it as October approaches.
Gifts from our sponsors, to help make the challenge easier
I’m so excited about this year’s sponsors because their products are so great, and they’ve come up with some pretty awesome ways to help you succeed in the challenge and stay on track.
Once you take the October Unprocessed pledge below, I’ll hook you up with all of these special offers.
Bob’s Red Mill makes wholesome and delicious real food, with an emphasis on whole grains. This year they’re offering a valuable buy-one-get-one-free coupon, good for any of their products! All you’ll need to do is print out the coupon and take it to any grocery store. The only hard part will be deciding which of their products to stock up on!
Oliso makes smart home appliances that make cooking easier. Once you take the challenge, you’ll get $50 off their top-rated, lightweight Vacuum Sealer or their awesome new Smart Hub multi-purpose, countertop induction cooker — or get both and get the discount on each! These are both incredibly useful tools that make preparing meals a heck of a lot easier. (You’ll get free shipping, too!)
MightyNest offers The Mighty Fix, a subscription service that helps you make gradual changes towards healthier living. Each month, they will send you an item that will help you make the transition to using more non-toxic items in your home for just $10 each month (and you can add other items they sell to your Fix and get free shipping on everything).
It’s already a great deal, but it gets even better: For your first month, you can choose a Lifefactory Glass Water Bottle (normally $17.99 + $5.95 shipping) or a Stainless Steel Oval Bento Box (normally $14.95 + $5.95) — for just $5 total.
We picked these two items since they’re both perfect tools to help you with the challenge. Drinking water helps “crowd out” other (processed!) beverages, and the Bento Box is a convenient way to bring healthy food on the go.
Let’s Do It!
Commit to eating no processed foods during the month of October by signing your name below.
This is an exercise in awareness. If an entire month is too much of a commitment, that’s okay. Maybe it’s only a week? Maybe just a day? Sign the pledge, and show your support!
Maybe you’re not comfortable with my definition of “unprocessed.” That’s okay, too. Decide what it means to you and take the pledge on your terms.
Take the October Unprocessed Pledge Here!
The following people have taken the pledge:
|First Name||Last Name||Location (City/State)||Comment|
|Rebecca||Ellis||Sedona AZ||Love this.|
|Helen||Blain||San Jose CA|
|Rachel||Achor||Little Rock, AR|
|Elizabeth||Warren||Arlington ma||I'm on a low sodium diet and try to steer clear of MSG. I want more unprocessed options on the market!|
|Judy||Larson||Imperial beach, ca|
|Kelle||Baker||West River, MD|
|Heather||Vorpahl||Green Bay, WI|
|Karin||Mortell||San Francisco, CA|
You can leave a comment below, but if you want to take the pledge, please fill out the form above!
Photo of kneading dough by Gaelle Marcel.