So, I know that a couple of people (mostly my sister) have been waiting impatiently for me to get around to this, so I'm going to try and give the full report now.
We decided (on a whim) to take the 100 Days of Real Food blog's 10 Day Pledge. Our first day was the 27th, and we were super unorganized. But after a bit of a scramble, we got straightened out (sort of), and we were off.
I've been asked what we ate exactly for this real food challenge, and so I figured I would just throw up a quick summary of our dinner menus for the 10 days. (Whenever possible, all produce was organic. Actually, now that I take another look, I think the only ones that maybe weren't were the black-eyed peas. I'm not sure about those...)
1- green beans and potatoes and whole grain cornbread (which was super great! My husband has threatened to never make any other kind of cornbread ever again.)
2- whole wheat biscuits, locally grown sausage and gravy
3- stuffed poblano peppers, rice, and quesadillas (with homemade tortillas)
4- pizza night, whole wheat crusts, organic everything else
5- leftovers- clean out the fridge night
As you can see, the first several nights were heavily weighted towards things we knew the girls (well, the older one, anyway. The little one eats almost anything) would eat without too much argument. Or, at least, that's what we thought. We still had tantrums nearly every night over something being wrong. The first night, the tantrum was because the cornbread was the wrong color. (The whole wheat flour was from red wheat. The next bag we bought was white wheat, to try to avoid some of that. It sort of worked. Almost.) Another night, she threw a fit over the quesadillas. That lasted about 30 minutes before she finally told us there wasn't supposed to be anything but cheese on hers. (There wasn't. We know better.) She finally ate it.
After that, we had to work a bit harder. And we had a meal plan that kept changing all week long. This is what we finally ended up with:
6- my husband's big cook-out: local pork barbeque, rye rolls, coleslaw, and watermelon, baked beans, and grilled chicken
7-whole wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce
9- hoppin' john (a recipe from my daughter's princess cookbook- mostly rice and black-eyed peas)
10- black bean and beef burritos, homemade tortillas, of course.
Our breakfasts were pretty hectic, what with school every day (something I still am not adjusted to). We went back and forth between eggs and pancakes for most of the week, with the girls occasionally requesting toast or leftover biscuits for a few mornings.
School lunches and snacks really didn't change too much. She usually takes pretty healthy foods as a rule. The only changes I really made were to not add any little tastes of candy once in a while (which really only happens maybe once every couple of weeks anyway), and to switch out the usual crackers for a version that met our new rules. (Which turns out to be Triscuits. Only 3 ingredients. And very nearly the only packaged food in the whole grocery store that does meet those rules, seemingly. Man, grocery shopping was difficult and time-consuming!) Lunch for the rest of us was leftovers of whatever we had in the fridge.
Food was nearly all we did this past several days, it seemed like. I suppose, if we did this every single day, I would eventually get a bit more efficient. Especially with navigating the grocery stores. I hope. Having to read every single label for everything you picked up took so much time! And you couldn't not read the labels, either. That just leads to trouble. Turns out, there are gross additives to almost everything in the store. Stupid things that shouldn't need any preservatives. Like salt. All this time, I thought the only thing in my salt was, well, salt. And iodine. Nope. They added preservatives and some sort of anti-caking powder to it. And grated cheese is not just grated cheese. It also has anti-caking stuff thrown into it. Which sort of just makes me go EWWW. (I think I was a lot happier before I started reading all these labels. Just saying.)
And, another thing Lisa wasn't kidding about: the amount of dishwashing involved in all this real food! I think we were running the dishwasher three times a day. Maybe four. And then the stupid thing died! (It had been limping along for a while. My husband had been doctoring it for two weeks before it finally just quit.) Luckily, a new one has come to live with us. And today is another leftovers day, so we might finally get caught up on our dishes. Maybe. ;)
So, I guess the question to ask is: What did we learn? And then, maybe: Was it all worth it?
Well, let's see...
The biggest thing we learned was how much effort it takes to eat this way. Some of the effort is in the cooking, but most of it seems to be in the shopping. Grocery stores are filled with junk foods and things that in no way fit the rules of this challenge. Even the farmer's market wasn't a sure bet, because we don't have a grower's only market in the area. A lot of the produce there is still trucked in from surrounding states and not necessarily chemical free. We had to spend a lot of time just reading labels, and so shopping ate up a lot of our time.
On the plus side, we finally found a new local source for meat. The farm/shop we had been buying it from apparently went out of business earlier this year. We've been looking for a new one ever since. It's farther away than the other one was, but after seeing the farm and some of the animals there, I think it's a good choice for us. We'll be riding over every couple of months, I suppose, for re-stocking.
Is all the trouble worth it? Maybe. We all agree that real food, home cooked tastes better. We've been making our own bread for a while now, and everyone likes it better than the fluff they call bread down at the grocery store. We don't seem to have any problems with the idea of it. The only problem will be in getting organized and learning how to get things done in a reasonable amount of time. I guess my work is cut out for me, huh? Especially since my husband is going back to work in a few days and I'll be on my own for a while.
Another thing we've learned is that the kids aren't going to let us just make a drastic (permanent) cold-turkey type change like this. We're going to have to go slowly and make one change at a time. Which is okay, because even though he's been reading the labels and saying "yuck!", my husband is still refusing to throw out (or donate) any foods that we already have in the house that don't fit the rules. So, we will be continuing the same routine we've been concentrating on all year- use up those foods we already have in the house, and not buying any more of them again. (I've been trying to wean the kids off of several of them for months now, but I haven't quite got to the point where I can get out of the store without another box every single time. Yet. I hope that time is not far in the future.)
As for what we all thought of this:
My husband claims that he didn't change his eating habits much at all.
He is extremely proud of the fact that he found a way to keep on eating his accustomed amounts of meat during this challenge. ("I'm a carnivore. I need meat.")
And he claims that he didn't notice feeling any different at all for the entire challenge.
Neither of the girls has mentioned feeling any differently or learning anything, naturally. I think they're too young to be able to put such things into words yet. Maybe they didn't even notice. (Only one nightmare for the entire 10 days, though. That's a huge improvement over normal.)
I did learn that the baby seems to have food stashed everywhere. Seriously, she's part squirrel or something. Every time I turned around she had yet another cracker of some sort (that she wasn't supposed to be eating during the challenge). I'm still not sure I've found her entire stash. But, at least I haven't seen her with anything new in the last couple of days. Maybe she's used it all up by now.
I noticed that there were unreasonable amounts of milk consumed during this challenge. Which is the girls' normal response to being offered foods they think are "icky". Obviously, to make these changes a permanent thing, we will be required to go more slowly. It took me 8 days to figure out how to make yogurt palatable under these rules, and yogurt is one of their favorite foods. The baby never did agree to eat it.
As for me, I had a hard time with some of these rules. My sweet tooth is unreasonable anyway, and taking all my junk food away at once was awful! The second day was especially killer! By the third day, my husband was trying to concoct some sort of mess that involved oats, cocoa, and a bit of honey. It sort of resembled a no-bake cookie, but it never did set up properly. I rationed things out and behaved, really I did. I only had just a couple of bites. And only for the next couple of days or so. But it helped me get over the worst of the cravings. (Not all of them, just the worst ones. I still craved sugar the entire time.)
My husband stole my scale months ago, so I didn't weigh in the beginning or anything. I can't tell you if we had any weight loss (although, I would doubt it, since it was only 10 days). What I did notice was that I slept better than usual after a few days. I usually have trouble sleeping soundly, and I won't pretend that I got more sleep than normal, but I did feel more rested most days.
Also, I have extremely dry skin on my hands. I thought it was something related to thyroid issues, but after a few days of this challenge, they weren't nearly as bad as usual. I don't think I drank any more water than normal, so the only change I can see is in the foods we ate. Now, after only a day and a half of not sticking to these strict rules, I can see my hands starting to dry out a little again. Which sort of sucks.
So, is it worth it? Probably. I don't think I can really tell with just the few days of effort that we've put into it. I do think it's worth it to take the time to make good, home cooked food. I don't think I want to spend all day every day doing it, though. I still haven't adjusted to all this school and extracurricular stuff that we have going on. I'm obviously going to need a better system if I'm going to be able to pull this off when my husband isn't here to help. I expect that to be a pretty steep learning curve headed my way. (I'm not really a very good cook, so it's gonna take a lot of work.)
It's definitely worth doing if I can manage to teach my kids better eating habits than I have, myself. I readily admit that, of all of us in the house, my food choices are the worst 90% of the time. (Don't try to blame my mom for that, either. I can clearly remember her putting in a lot of effort trying to teach us, and making pretty decent meals for us when we were little. I obviously just didn't pay as much attention to it as I should have. She tried. Sorry, Mom. You were right all along. But, you knew that.) So, there's that. Maybe these guidelines would help me learn to model better eating for them. Like I said, totally worth it. I've been trying all year, and I think I might have made more headway in the last 10 days than in all the eight months before it.
Will we keep it up? Not this strictly, immediately. Like I mentioned before, my husband says we have to eat what we already have, no matter how gross. And the kids need a much more gradual slide into it. Right now, I'm thinking we might start with the mini-pledges from the 100 Days blog. If we start there and add a new one every week or two (or three), we should make some decent progress. And it should give us plenty of time to get rid of whatever is still floating around the house. (I have a feeling it's mostly junk foods and snack type things. I think most of the rest of it is already gone. I've been working on that for months.)
This 10 Day Pledge wasn't exactly easy, but it wasn't too hard, all things considered. It took a lot of time, though. Especially in the grocery stores. I think I would encourage everyone to try it. It's only for 10 days, and you might learn something useful from it. If nothing else, it will force you to think a little more about the food you eat. (I do recommend going into it a little more organized and prepared than I was, though. Make your plan and your tentative menu first, and then jump in with both feet!)
Here's your link to sign up for the 10 Day Pledge. (Okay, Sister mine- it's your turn! Don't let me down! I want a full report.)