Q&A: A Journey to Real Food
Lisa Leake’s real food journey began in 2010 when she convinced her family to take a 100 day real food pledge. The family (Lisa, her husband and 2 young girls) would follow strict food rules - 100 solid days without eating a single ounce of highly processed or refined food - and blog about the experience. Little did she know that this pledge would turn into so much more. Overcoming doubts, meltdowns and plenty of unexpected questions, the journey was worth any bumps in the road along the way. Today Lisa is proud to share her experience in her book, 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love. Filled with insights, approachable step-by-step instructions, recipes, and more, the book offers all the support, encouragement, and guidance readers need to eat better every day.
Many of us here at Oldways have followed Lisa on her journey and are excited to share her book with all of you.
OLDWAYS: How do you define real food?
LISA: We basically define real food as whole foods (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, nuts, seeds), packaged foods with 5 or less whole ingredients, locally and humanely raised meat products, and natural sweeteners (honey and pure maple syrup).
OLDWAYS: Can you talk with us about what inspired you to begin this journey and some of the profound lessons you learned?
LISA: Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food gets all the credit for inspiring me to completely overhaul our family’s diet. Reading his book made me realize that a lot of the foods I thought were healthy were actually highly processed. I gained a better understanding of how these foods could impact our health and felt compelled to make some serious changes. I knew I would feel better about feeding my family more wholesome foods, but what I didn’t realize were the immediate changes in health we would experience – like more energy, weight loss, improvement in asthma and constipation, and a dramatic change in my cholesterol levels (for the better!). We also learned real food tastes really good. Our palates evolved and we have now come to prefer fresh, wholesome homemade food over anything else!
OLDWAYS: What were the biggest hurdles for your kids? What foods did they find the most difficult to give up?
LISA: My kids were pretty young when we took our pledge – 3 and 5 years old – so out of sight, out of mind worked pretty well at the time. My older daughter did have a serious meltdown over a forbidden donut though. The whole experience made me second guess our little experiment, but a few weeks later she made some amazing choices all on her own, and I realized the valuable lessons she was learning that would benefit her in the long run.
OLDWAYS: Knowing what you know now after completing the journey, what would you do differently if you were starting it?
LISA: This is probably not the kind of answer you are looking for, but I would have indulged in some homemade treats (using honey and pure maple syrup) from the very beginning! When we started our pledge I had no idea how to make sweets without sugar so the first few weeks felt like somewhat of a withdrawal for my sweet tooth until I figured out how to be more creative in the kitchen.
OLDWAYS: What are a few suggestions you can offer to other families looking to begin a similar real-food adventure?
LISA: I think it’s important to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed and want to give up all together. For example, consider starting with just one meal of the day like breakfast – once you have that meal all cleaned up then move on to lunch or snacks. Remember that baby steps count!
OLDWAYS: With more than 100 family friendly recipes in the book it is not easy to choose just one but we hope you might be able to share one of your wonderful recipes with our readers.
LISA: Let’s share my recipe for veggie pancakes!
This side dish provides a fabulous way to use up the vegetables you have on hand and introduce your children to new ones as well. Start with something familiar, like white or sweet potatoes, then mix in some zucchini, carrot, or something else unexpected. Just be sure to tell your little ones about it afterward so they know that new foods aren’t so scary after all!
Prep and Cook Time: Less than 30 minutes
Makes 4 to 5 servings
3 cups grated veggies
(white potato and/or sweet potato, with skin on, plus zucchini, yellow squash, and/or peeled carrots)
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil, for cooking
Sour cream, applesauce, or freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. In a large bowl, mix together the grated veggies, eggs, flour, and salt until thoroughly combined.
2. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. It’s important that the heat not be too hot or too cool, because you want the pancakes to cook all the way through the middle by the time they’re brown on the outside. When the oil is hot, drop pancake-size dollops of the veggie mixture into the pan, without overcrowding. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bottom starts to brown. Flip and cook until browned on both sides, then repeat until the batter is gone.
3. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate lined with paper towels and keep warm by tenting with foil or placing in the oven on the lowest setting.
4. Serve warm with a topping of sour cream and applesauce or Parmesan cheese.