Welcome to the 7th Annual October Unprocessed!

October Unprocessed 2016

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?

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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.

We’ve also shared a ton of guest posts each year, and this year will be no exception. (Want to read previous years’ guest posts? Here they are: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015)

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 LogoBob’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!

MightyNestOliso 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!)

MightyNestMightyNest 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.

Need an exception? Sure, no problem. Just make sure it’s a deliberate choice, not just because of a habit.

Whatever your level of commitment (even if it’s for just one day, please sign the pledge), and discover how it changes you, your family, your community, and the world.


Take the October Unprocessed Pledge Here!

By taking the pledge you’ll also receive new blog posts by email; you can unsubscribe anytime–no hard feelings! Of course, your email address will never be shared or displayed publicly.

The following people have taken the pledge:

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View and search the list of all 4076 awesome people!


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.

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13 Comments on "Welcome to the 7th Annual October Unprocessed!"

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Kenani Y. Gertner
Kenani Y. Gertner
August 30, 2016 5:43 pm

I have had a great deal of physical problems, and a doctor actually caused me diabetes, so I try harder to eat healthier, but I’ve always started with wholesome, unprossed goods, which I cook from scratch, no boxed refuse for my family.

Monika Robinski
Monika Robinski
August 31, 2016 8:50 am

Kind of makes me feel proud. Apparently people find it hard to do , what I do every day. Cooking with simple ingredients. Good luck!

Jacqueline Davis
September 12, 2016 8:52 am

October 2016, just need to stay focused on yes and no foods! I’d make a muffin in a mug and my waffles. Yum!!

Darlene Latshaw
September 12, 2016 10:37 am

Can’t wait to meet some of you in person at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore the end of September!

September 12, 2016 10:45 am

Looking forward to joining the challenge

September 12, 2016 4:31 pm

What is the best protein powder I can use on the unprocessed challenge?

September 15, 2016 11:23 am

I’m looking forward to this challenge and learning more about how to use Bob’s Ree Mill products!

hanna beck
hanna beck
September 16, 2016 8:16 am

Looking forward to creating delicious whole-grain meals with fresh in season produce! I love Bob’s Red Mill, and I love knowing what is in all the food I eat!

September 22, 2016 3:38 pm

I think the $5 bento box is the most exciting for me

Brandy Bowers
September 30, 2016 1:23 pm

Can’t wait for this one

JC Richtofen
October 8, 2016 6:38 am

Fat is not bad for you in moderation. In fact, fats are needed as part of a healthy diet. We need to educate people better about fats and what they are and how they are needed.