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Letting Go of Processed Food: Challenging, But Worth It!

How to get to an "80/20" diet
Letting Go of Processed Food: Challenging, But Worth It!
Published on December 9, 2010 : 1 comment

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Making healthy food choices can seem like such a battle, especially this time of year, with endless holiday parties and social eating obligations. In theory, it should be so simple to do the right thing—everyone knows that from a health perspective, Oreo’s are bad and celery is good. But how’s a person to resist the relentless bombardment of deliciously tempting, health-destroying options in our everyday lives?! Making the healthy choice, it seems, is never the easy choice.

This month, we hear from Keri Rheinfrank, who shares a little with us about her struggle to convert to a real foods (i.e., non-processed) diet and to choose more fresh and local food options. Her ultimate goal is to reach an 80/20 ratio—80% of her diet as real food, and 20% of her diet allotted for having fun, enjoying the holidays, and maintaining fellowship with friends. I’m sure many of us can relate to the thoughts and emotions Keri shares with us here.

I am free from yucky foods!!!

That is what I wanted to yell after attending a lecture where I learned about the real foods movement. I was determined to head straight home, throw away any food that contained an ingredient I could not pronounce, run to the farmer’s market and buy every fresh vegetable and fruit I could find, and ward off sugar-free gum forever (as I’ d just learned that artificial sweeteners are not the savior I’d once thought)!

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. All around us, there are comforts that we are familiar with, people that enable us, and the voice inside our head that screams, “You walked from the farthest parking spot; you deserve some fast food!!!”

Breaking from these patterns is not easy, but it is attainable. With little baby steps, you can start new cycles and revamp your life and eating habits. It starts very slowly, but most habits take a while to break. It’s like exercising—a person can start with just one jumping jack and that can eventually lead to a 5K race. Real food eating is like that, too. You make one choice on a daily basis and that brings you that much closer to eating foods that are good for you, that give you natural energy, and that can improve your physical ailments, as well. 

Salad or CakePersonally, I have struggled with this over the past five months. I started out with a fast where I eliminated from my diet all foods that are processed and “bad for you.” I lasted about five days before I broke down and ate a cookie from the store and felt guilty. The fast did, however, force me to start looking at ingredient labels and start researching foods that I enjoyed to find ways that I could retain them in my diet in some form. I do not eat everything that I think I should 100% of the time. Shooting for 60% real food in my diet seemed like a good goal to shoot for until I can get to the 80/20 level that would make my system tick like a clock. Watching people I know eating responsibly is also big motivator for me, and it definitely helps to surround yourself with supportive people to make the process easier.

Food baskets by the Omaha Teen Market Garden!Food baskets by the Omaha Teen Market Garden!Real food diets are all about PLANNING! I am not good at this. I have found some quick and easy dietary staples, like pistachios, which I LOVE (thanks, Mandy!), but otherwise, most real foods can’t be purchased at the gas station or corner pharmacy. This requires a grocery list, a grocery store that carries real foods, a garden to grow real foods, or finding the closest farmers market to buy real foods. Thanks to resources like, you can find different places in the area to go for real foods. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are just the beginning to the great real foods adventure. Along with natural condiments, these foods can be arranged in endless combinations that will keep your family asking “Why does this taste so good when there is nothing bad in it?”  

So, plan your days with colorful, fun foods with ingredients you can actually pronounce and understand what they mean. Don’t be afraid to try some of those fruits and vegetables that you are not familiar with in the produce section (you can always Google how to prepare it), and have a great time learning more about natural ways to nourish your bodies with food that won’t weigh you down and make you sick. I encourage all of you to start living your life the natural way…planned, healthy, and fun!!

Have a great tip for helping others convert to a real foods diet? We’d love to hear from you; just leave a comment below!

cpooschkeChristy authors the "What's Fresh?" column on She is a local "foodie" and owner/operator of - Check out her natural cookbook, grocery shopping guide, diet make-over services, and personal chef services on her site! She also oper


Mandy (not verified) says:

December 13, 2010 : 13 years 27 weeks ago

Mandy's picture

Great article! I love the realness!! You are so right! It is not easy BUT definitely worth it!! Good for you and way to take charge of your healthy :) Happy for you!