100 Days of Real Food Fast & Fabulous
The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food
By Lisa Leake
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with me Suzy Chase.
Lisa Leake: Hi this is Lisa Leake, and my new cookbook 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous, is a quick and easy way to cut out processed food.
Suzy Chase: As we turn over a new leaf for a fresh new year, talk a little bit about how dependent Americans have become on processed food.
Lisa Leake: Well my family and I decided to take a challenge called 100 days of real food, where we'd cut out all processed food, and when we started to tell our family and friends what we were doing they looked at us like we were crazy. I told them we couldn't eat anything ... Any grains unless they were 100 percent whole grain, we couldn't eat any refined sugar, nothing of the package with more than five ingredients, and they honestly thought we would starve with those rules. So I think that is a real true testament to how dependent Americans have become on packaged processed food.
Suzy Chase: At the grocery store, the word real is on so many food labels, what is your definition of real food?
Lisa Leake: Yes, you have to be careful about that ... Whether it's real or natural, there are a lot of unregulated terms that are buzz words that companies are throwing around. So for us, we created some rules to help us with our pledge ... In a nutshell, real is anything out of a package with five or fewer whole ingredients. So that means no refined grains, only 100 percent whole grains. No refined or artificial sweeteners, only honey and pure maple syrup in moderation. Again nothing out of a package if more than five ingredients, no factory farmed meat, only locally and humanly raised meat products, no deep fried foods, and no fast foods. Those are our rules in a nutshell.
Suzy Chase: So, Whole Foods has a brand new commercial out where they say, "No artificial colors, no artificial preservatives, and no artificial sweetener," in any of the food they sell. Do you think we will see more of these changes at grocery stores in 2017?
Lisa Leake: I do, but again we have to be careful about what they're telling us. So even though Whole Foods already does a little bit of the homework for us, you still have to read labels, and reading ingredient labels is the number one way to know what's in your food and how processed it is, so there's really no where that you could shop without still paying a lot of attention.
Suzy Chase: You've outlined 7 real food rules in the cook book. The first rule is no refined grains, what exactly are refined grains?
Lisa Leake: So that would be your white flour, your refined corn meal, white rice, so instead we stick to 100 percent whole grain. It gets a little confusing because when you look at wheat, for example both white flour and whole wheat flour come from the wheat plant, but what happens is they take out all the good stuff, the bran and the germ, from the wheat berry that has pretty much all the good nutrition that you want. And they end up having to fortify those grains and add in extra vitamins and minerals that they feel like have been stripped out, but what it comes down to is you just cannot recreate nature, so it is much better just to go with the whole grain the way nature intended us to have it.
Suzy Chase: So I guess if we're reading labels, we should look for the first word to be whole in front of the grain?
Lisa Leake: Yes, so with wheat again it's one of the most confusing parts of label reading unfortunately, because I think our society along the way has nicknamed whole wheat as wheat. You know people say, "Do you want white or wheat bread?"
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
Lisa Leake: They're both wheat products, so it gets very confusing, but when you look at the ingredient label if it says wheat on there without the word whole, then you're looking at white flour. So you're exactly right, the ingredient must say whole wheat, or in the case of rice, whole grain rice is any colored rice ... So brown rice, in wild rice you'll see black rice in there, so if it just says rice then that means it's white rice, but if it says brown rice then that is whole grain.
And I talk about that more in the book, because again this it's a lot to absorb. So in this book, since this is all quick and easy, I created little cheat sheets, it's like the Cliff note version of how to avoid processed foods. So it's little charts that tell you what to look for at the whole wheat, and what to avoid like the wheat flour without the word whole in front of it.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of your cheat sheets, on page 11 you have what to look for and what to avoid in dairy products. I was shocked to read that pre-shredded cheese has wood pulp in it.
Lisa Leake: Yes, it has an anti caking additive in there, because otherwise ... Think about it, if you grate your cheese at home, fresh out of a block of cheese, it's gonna end up clumping together, and so that's the cheese I used to buy, but now that I know the difference and I have exclusively been grating my own cheese, which is an extra step, but yet not complicated or too hard to do. I do notice the difference, and the other stuff tastes very powdering to me now.
I feel like in general it's easier to avoid processed food when you don't even want it anymore.
Suzy Chase: Sugar seems to be the current villain, talk about our consumption of sugar as a society.
Lisa Leake: Yes, so you're exactly right, sugar itself is not the devil. It is the quantity in which it is consumed, because it's not just in sweets anymore. It is in bread, and salad dressings, and crackers, and it's in so many different foods, and it really adds up throughout the day. So especially when you look at our daily recommended allowance of sugar, most people are exceeding that before even lunch time. For us, we still have honey and pure maple syrup, which are still sweeteners, but they are more natural. They're created in nature, they're not as processed as like a sugar, or some of the other ones out there. It still doesn't give us the green light to turn up the bottle, we still do consume it in moderation, but I found that most package foods are not going to have honey or pure maple syrup. You're going to have to make it at home to have a sweetened food with those items, so therefore you're going to be able to control how much you're using and that really helps.
Suzy Chase: What are naturally occurring sugars?
Lisa Leake: So that's a great question, naturally occurring sugars are found in fruits like apples, also dairy products like yogurt. And if you think of an apple for example, the naturally occurring sugars ... Which today, you'll see counted as grams on the nutrition facts label under sugars, it doesn't break those out as a separate category. They're actually going to start doing that, which I think will be so helpful, because it is different.
The naturally occurring sugar in an apple is packaged together with the fiber and all the other good stuff that comes in an apple, but when you strip out and you just have sugar by itself, those are just empty calories, and just completely different than what comes in, like fruit or dairy products.
Suzy Chase: This cookbook dispels so many myths. Two myths are baby carrots and vine ripen tomatoes.
Lisa Leake: Yes.
Suzy Chase: What's the issue with those two?
Lisa Leake: Well, so the vine ripen tomatoes ... They're appealing, they're on the little green vine at the grocery store. They make you feel like they were picked just like what you see, but can you imagine a big truck load of red tomatoes, what would happen to that? They would be totally mushed by the time they arrived at the grocery store.
So what happens is, the tomatoes even the vine ripen variety that has an upcharge a lot of times, they're picked when they're pretty much all green and then they're artificially ripened. So that's why they actually ... They look red, but they don't taste like a tomato.
Suzy Chase: You're right.
Lisa Leake: They look ripe, but they taste like nothing. I used to think I didn't like tomatoes, because I'd only had tomatoes from the grocery store, but if you go to like your local farmer's market or even ... You don't even need a big garden, in the Summer get a pot and ... You don't even need a pot, just get a bag of dirt and split open the top and put a tomato plant in there and give it some water and some sunshine, you will be amazed at how good those tomatoes taste, nothing like what's at the grocery store. And again it's because of the fact that they're not picked when they're ready.
And then baby carrots, I don't know if you heard the rumors if you will, about baby carrots being soaked in chlorine? A lot of people were avoiding buying them because they thought this to be the case, but I actually reached out to the company that makes baby carrots and got the real deal, and they are just washed in water much like what comes out of your tap, that might have a little bit of chlorine in it. So it's completely safe to drink, in within the limits established by the FDA, but that was something that just escalated quite a bit.
Suzy Chase: And it freaked out all of us parents out here giving our kids those little carrots.
Lisa Leake: Yeah, those baby carrots are convenient. They're already peeled and ready to go, so don't be afraid.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of parenting, I have a picky 10 year old and healthy breakfast options are a struggle for me, describe your granola.
Lisa Leake: Oh, that is my favorite breakfast. So it is basically whole grain oats, which all oats are whole grain so that's one of the easy ones, and a mixture of different nuts and seeds, and some seasonings, and a little butter and honey, and it's slow baked. And what I love about it is ... Well it tastes amazing, but it's also very filling. So a lot of your breakfast cereals at the grocery store that are just like sugary refined grains are gonna leave you feeling hungry an hour two later, but that granola fills me up until like 1 or 2 o'clock some days so I really love that. And it's great with milk and berries, or over yogurt, or even just chunks of it by itself.
Suzy Chase: You have a quote in the cookbook that says, "If your pantry and fridge have no food, just ingredients, that means you're doing something right."
Lisa Leake: Yes, I know, I often feel like I just went to the grocery store and I spent all this money, and I unload everything and there's still like nothing to eat, because it's really up to you if you're living this lifestyle to prepare some foods. And it doesn't have to be complicated. It could be a matter of just boiling some noodles, or boiling some eggs, or making a homemade salad dressing, or a dip for veggies.
So in the front of the book, before all the recipes, I actually have a list of a bunch of ideas of simple things that you can do like that, so you do feel like you have food that you can grab and go when you're hungry.
Suzy Chase: Health wise, what changes can we expect by cutting out processed food?
Lisa Leake: Well a lot of people do make this change so they can see an improvement in health. Now for us, we cutout processed food because we thought it was the right thing to do, we were so surprised by the changes in our health that followed.
First of all, my youngest daughter, she struggled a lot with constipation ... I know a lot of kids are on medication for that, within five days it was like a switch had flipped in her, I could not believe the difference. She also struggles a lot with asthma, and we saw an amazing improvement with her wheezing it just ... She went from five back to back episodes one year, to going a whole entire year without wheezing at all when we cutout processed food. And studies do show those can be related.
But my husband and I also felt like we had more energy ... And surprisingly enough my HDL cholesterol, the number that you want to be high, for me went up by 50 percent, which reduces my chance for heart disease. So even my doctor was surprised about that.
Suzy Chase: Wow.
Lisa Leake: And I was too ... So another thing that we're pleased about is a change in our pallet. As I mentioned earlier, it's easy to avoid processed food if it doesn't taste good to you anymore, so that has been another really nice added benefit.
Suzy Chase: The other night I made your recipe for Real Food Sloppy Joes on page 223.
Lisa Leake: Oh good.
Suzy Chase: It tasted so much better than canned Sloppy Joe sauce that we all grew up on.
Lisa Leake: Yes, see now you won't want to eat that anymore.
Suzy Chase: No, and it was really easy, and I love the pinch of cinnamon it kind of added a different zip to the ground beef.
Lisa Leake: Yes, that reminded me of the Sloppy Joes I ate as a childhood, that's why I added that in there.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web?
Lisa Leake: My blog is 100daysofrealfood.com, 1 0 0, and I'm there updating weekly and also on social media, on Facebook and Instagram ... But also I have two cookbooks and they can be found anywhere that books are sold.
Suzy Chase: This way of eating is a lifestyle, and 100 days of Real Food is a great guide for us. Thanks Cookery by the Book podcast.
Lisa Leake: Thank you for having me.