In October 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. Years later, more than 30,000 people have joined in.
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.
Set Yourself up for Unprocessed Success!
The October Unprocessed Challenge is totally free — but if you want a complete plan for unprocessed success for the next four weeks (and beyond), check out my Real Food Rescue program!
Filled with guidance, strategies, printable checklists & worksheets, dozens of recipes, and meal plans — this is the easiest way to have all the best resources and guidance at your disposal, helping you take control of what you eat, feel great, and transform your life.
Get $10 off the Real Food Rescue when you take the October Unprocessed pledge and purchase during September or October! (Once you take the pledge below, I’ll email you the discount code.)
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.
You can leave a comment below, but if you want to take the pledge, please fill out the form above!
Basically I’ve been following the Unprocessed rules year round, but it’s inspiring to share and practice healthy eating/living collectively. We are fortunate to have access to fresh vegetables regularly (community garden and farmers market) and enjoy cooking from scratch daily. We are vegetarian most of the time. When we do have animal products, we get them from nearby farms—be that honey, eggs, chicken, pork or beef. Few things I plan to focus on this October: less sugar, more outdoor time and yoga.
Both my daughter and myself started diets this year and besides cutting calories and working out we are also eating only healthy and unprocessed foods. We are both down over 30 pounds each and have met our goals but have decided to continue with our healthy eating since we both enjoy it so much and feel so much better.
I started doing this back in 2010 and over the years have become whole food plant based. I am 74 and take no meds or get sick. I feel wonderful
Where are the guest posts for 2018 and 2019? It’s halfway through October and I don’t see any. Are they not being posted anymore? I have enjoyed the blogs and guest posts and new recipes during previous challenges and miss them.
Hi Ellen! I’ve been so busy with my “real job” that I unfortunately don’t have the time to coordinate all the guest posts anymore. However, we do have a couple that we’re working on, and I hope to have them published before the end of the month! Stay tuned! 🙂
I took the pledge when you first year. Do I need to “re-up” every year ? I get your emails. Thanks for such great information.
Grammar error above; meant “in your first year”. : (
Hi! I always think it’s a nice gesture to “sign” the pledge each year — as a way of making a commitment for yourself, and declaring it (semi) publicly. But it’s not mandatory, by any means. Hope the challenge is going well for you this year! 🙂
Cut out the GMOs also, organic whenever possible. I am in the midst of canning, dehydrating, and vacuum sealing to start a six month rotation of food. That, and the farmers markets, keeps me out of the grocery store temptation aisles.
Wondering whether tofu is considered processed if I don’t make it myself. What about yogurt and cheeses? As a vegetarian, I rely heavily on these items as protein sources but have never made my own tofu or cheese…just curious. thanks! Overall a great idea!
Hi Perri. Check out all the frequently asked questions posts (I touch on all of the specific foods you asked about). 🙂
Ah ok just looked at the fine print, tofu yes seitan no! can do!
Drinking and cooking with clean water is the foundation of great nutrition.
This helps me look at the past year and make adjustments in our diet to stay on track with eating clean and unprocessed foods. I use Bob Mill’s products where I can. Its been baby steps for the last couple of years. But we are getting there.
I am so excited to do this challenge. Our household is part way there taking out most processed foods and cooking a lot from scratch. So excited to go to the next step. Congratulations to all who have accepted and are doing this challenge and Thank you Andrew for doing this. Grateful!