In October of 2009, I was struck by a simple idea:
What would happen if I went for an entire month without eating any processed foods?
This question would have been nonsensical just a few decades ago.
Nowadays, it seems that almost every food that comes with an ingredients list a mile long, filled with refined sugar, fat, and salt. And preservatives. And flavorings. And artificial colors.
I’m no longer okay with this.
So I tried it, along with a few friends: A month of no processed foods.
We first had to define “unprocessed.” It’s one of those words that everyone intuitively seems to know, but when you get right down to it, it’s actually quite tricky to define. We finally settled on what I now call The Kitchen Test:
Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.
That doesn’t mean you have to make the food yourself, just that it could be done in a home kitchen—at least in theory. So if it’s something that’s store-bought, each ingredient needs to pass the kitchen test. It quickly rules out all those additives you’d never use if you were cooking for yourself.
And how did that first month go? The experience was revelatory. My expectations and sense of taste were re-calibrated. I started to identify individual ingredients in the foods I ate. I didn’t crave those salty snacks. I found myself often in the kitchen, excited to see what I could cook next. Above all, I simply felt better.
We took turns hosting small dinner parties, and shared our stories and experiences. It brought us closer together. Funny how REAL food does that.
In 2010, I decided to try it again, in a bigger way. I had recently started my blog, Eating Rules, and I reached out to the community and issued this “unprocessed” challenge again. I put up a short pledge form on my site for people to sign. By the end of the month, more than 400 people took the pledge and we shared over 40 guest posts on a variety of unprocessed food topics.
“The challenge” has continued to grow over the past few years.
Last year, over 6,000 people participated and we shared 93 guest posts!
This year, “October Unprocessed” is back for a fourth time, and it’s better than ever.
I’m particularly excited that Bob’s Red Mill is sponsoring the challenge. They’ve been a supporter from the very beginning, and this year they’re contributing with giveaways, valuable coupons, guest posts – and I’ll even be interviewing Bob himself!
We’re all in this together, supporting each other, and coming together as a community to bring change about in our own lives, and in the rest of the world. Ultimately, this challenge is an awareness exercise. It’ll help you focus on what you’re putting into your body, how it affects you, and how it affects the world around you.
I encourage you to take the pledge today, and then join us for the month-long challenge.
Together, we’ll change the world, one bite at a time.
(and once you do, you’ll receive some valuable Bob’s Red Mill coupons so you can stock up your unprocessed pantry!)
Andrew Wilder firmly believes that “healthy eating doesn’t have to suck,” and he writes about how that’s entirely possible on his blog, Eating Rules. He leads the October Unprocessed challenge each year, and you can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.