Sunday, August 31, 2014

100 Days of Real Food: A Review

Fold massive pile of scrubs or peruse new cookbook? Tough Choice
I first saw Lisa Leake's blog 100 Days of Real Food, probably via pinterest, when I stumbled across a post that addressed packing healthful and varied school lunches for your kids. The topic of school lunches is one that I feel pretty strongly about, but that's for another post.

Leake's blog was full of great recipes, meal plans, product reviews and videos and had a very accessible tone so I added it to my blog roll and started following her on facebook. Be warned, though, people on facebook can get downright nasty in their comments to even the most innocent posts. Like the time she candidly showed her kids taking homemade uncrustables to eat at the airport. Holy nut allergy sensitivity!

As soon as I saw she had finished her first cookbook/guidebook, I pre-ordered it. That was back in January and a whole bunch of life happened in between, so I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived on my doorstep a week ago.

My first impression upon taking it out of the box was that this was no amateur job. There was clearly a ton of work and thought put into the content and organization so that it covers all the bases, gives you the tools and confidence to get started in your own journey to more healthful eating and food-prep for your family, yet still provides references to go out and learn more on your own.

Coming in at 339 pages, not including the reference section, this is one hefty tome. Yet, full of beautiful photos and a voice that is not at all condescending or pandering it invites you to bring it to your couch and flip through while you sip your coffee (with grass-fed cream, of course).

Starting at the beginning of her journey and walking you through the changes she made for her family without getting totally bogged down in the details, Leake leaves you with the understanding that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. By first simply looking at the ingredient lists of the foods in your pantry to better understand what may or may not have been great choices to using her meal planning (even broken down by season so that you can utilize farmer's markets if you desire) and grocery shopping list templates you can start building your own whole food life. The first 123 pages focus on giving you the information you need, while the second half has the promised 100 recipes, broken into the following categories; breakfast, lunchbox, snacks and appetizers, salads and sides, simple dinners, special treats and, finally, homemade staples.

I love that there are examples provided of what she adds to the given lunch box recipe in order to pack a full meal for her kids.
Pizza bites made on mini whole wheat pitas; H will love these.
Breakfast tacos
Eggs in a Basket
These cinnamon apple chips will make a great addition to the rotation of after-school snacks (and sweet treats for me) this fall!
I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but yet another thing I really like about her approach is that she does not shy away from the fact that committing to a more healthful way of eating definitely involves planning, organization and work, but that it's worth it.

In reading the book, you better understand that this is not an extreme 'diet'. You aren't ordered to immediately open your pantry and pull out the dumpster to rid your house of these dirty, dirty foods that are clearly killing your family right now. There also aren't a ton of rules to follow, calories to count, or food groups to eliminate, it's simply about understanding what you are eating (and feeding your family) and how those foods can either benefit your overall health, or not, then eating controlled portions of those foods (which Leake also addresses).The guiding principle, adopted from Michael Pollan, is that you should eat foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.

Dairy, gluten and legumes are all whole foods and the elimination of them from a lot of trending food plans has been a real turn-off to me. Seeing great whole wheat bread recipes, the use of home made corn tortillas and real cheese made my heart sing.

That said, she also has several recipes that would accommodate people who need/want to eliminate those foods and there is even an index in the back that organizes the recipes by dietary need so they're easy to find.

Don't you just want to sit down at the table with her?
I especially appreciate that she candidly addresses the issue of budget. Her family's second round of the 100 Days of Real Food Pledge, involved her doing so on a budget that was voted on by her readership. For a family of four, she had $125 a week to spend on groceries. In her state, a full food stamp allotment for her family size would have been $167/week, so it was definitely a challenge, but they achieved it! You can read her posts about how she did that in the hyperlink above. A huge, and very real, barrier in a lot of people's minds when they think about making the change. Bottom line: eating whole foods certainly doesn't mean you have to/should shop there.

The only sections I skimmed (and they were small) were the ones addressing strategies for eating at friends' houses or when you're on vacation, or how to share the whole foods love. I'm just never gonna be the girl who eats before she goes out to eat, or offers to bring something to a friend's house as a guise, or is the huge party buzz kill talking only about Monsanto and GMO's. While these things are important topics to explore and research for your own personal benefit, it's a huge turn-off to me when people are trying to overhaul their eating habits and it's all they can talk about. Blech.

Overall, Leake's book is a great addition to any collection of resources on the whole foods movement, especially because it provides the specific help of meal plans and recipes to add to your rotation so you have not just the research, but the practical application. If you haven't already, definitely read Michael Pollan's books including The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules. There are additionally some really great documentaries available, most of which you can stream on netflix, such as Food, Inc., King Corn and Food Matters.

Now go forth and meal plan; school starts in two days!


Unknown said...

Hallelujah! I loved the review and hope Lisa sees it! I agree with you--there are too many food movements and trends that leave good food by the wayside. Can't wait to try this one!

Nicole Ingersoll said...

Great book review and post! I might have to check this book out!

Rachael Alsbury @ From Faye said...

Great review! I really love books by my favorite bloggers. It's just more comprehensive....but I'm a book person too. This one is on my list now!