Are You Processed or Unprocessed?

I was googling around last week and found Andrew Wilder’s website Eating Rules. In 2009 Andrew decided to issue a challenge to himself and his friends to eat no processed foods for a month. The challenge became October Unprocessed. Andrew decided to invite people to take the October Unprocessed pledge every year. I like the idea of eating less processed foods. I read a prediction recently that by 2030, two-thirds of Oklahomans would be overweight or obese. That means there must be a lot of parents out there feeding their kids a really unhealthy diet. Maybe by making an effort to eat less processed foods, we can develop better eating habits. If you want to read more about Andrew, go here You can find out how it all started, get tips, recipes and also sign the pledge.

What is an unprocessed food? I like Andrew’s definition:

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.”

Pretty simple, right? As Andrew says, it’s not about being perfect or even making everything yourself. We all know that fruits, vegetables and all those foods without labels are whole foods, or unprocessed. The trick is that when you’re buying packaged foods, you have to read the label. The website has some simple explanations about reading labels, but the easiest thing for me is to look for very few ingredients, and those ingredients should be things that I can read and know what they are.

Andrew’s suggestions are the following:

1. When you eat grains, eat only 100% whole grains. (if something says “enriched flour,” that means the nutritious stuff was taken out and had to be added back in — that why you’ll see a bunch of vitamins and chemicals and words you don’t understand listed as ingredients in enriched flour products. They are NOT whole grain)

2. Don’t eat high fructose corn syrup.

3. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried.

Okay, I interviewed Andrew and got a few answers to some questions that I had. First, he does NOT have children, although he says he has two “terrific nephews.” I know that when you have a family to feed, it can be hard to by-pass those packaged, pre-prepared foods. It can be difficult to fight the urge to grab a drive-thru burger on the way to soccer practice. But, I urge you to try it. Andrew said he would be bringing in guest bloggers during October to do some posts on family-friendly topics.

I asked him what types of people take part in the challenge and what kind of feedback he’s gotten in the past. “What’s most amazing to me is the variety of people who take part,” Andrew said, “and the variety of background and experiences they bring with them. Some people are terrified of the challenge, and others eat like this all the time.” In other words, jump in! Do what you can and feel good about it.

Andrew said that many people have told him they continued to eat unprocessed foods after the challenge — one woman who continued past October lost 100 pounds. You’ll find lots of comments and support on Andrew’s site at You’ll also find out what other people are doing to meet the challenge and some recipes, suggestions for eating out and lots more great ideas.

I’ll confess that most of the time I eat this way. I love to cook and I love to eat, so I’ve always cooked for my family of five. I’ll tell you that it’s worth it to teach your kids to read labels. My three grown children are label-readers and they all know how to cook. Those habits start early.

But I’m going to make more of a conscious effort to watch what I eat that is processed. (I LOVE chips. I’m not a sweet-eater, but I definitely like the salty stuff). I’ll blog about how things are going during October and try to give you some of my favorite, easy recipes that I’ve made over the years.

If you take the pledge, let us know how it’s going for you!


Categories: Editor’s Blog