Taking the October Unprocessed Challenge

I first “met” Andrew Wilder, owner of the blog, Eating Rules, when we were both new brand ambassadors for Attune Foods. He’s a great guy whose blog has lots of information on natural foods and nutrition.

He’s been running an interesting challenge every October for the past several years, and this year it is bigger than ever. He asked me if I’d write an article for him this month, which I did, and also asked me to share his challenge with my readers.

I’m not only sharing the challenge, but I’m taking it myself. (Remember that this coming Monday is October 1st!)

Here’s how it works. The rules are loose, there are no physical prizes, and you set your own parameters. You can try it for a day, a week, or the whole month. Whatever works for you.

Andrew explains his October Unprocessed Challenge rules like this:

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

I think that’s a great definition of unprocessed foods. Some cereals will fall in that category, while some will not. The same holds true of a “treat” food like ice cream. Technically, I could make vanilla ice cream with unprocessed ingredients, but I would find it difficult to make Moose Tracks ice cream because of the processed ingredients in that flavor of ice cream. All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, natural meats, and minimally processed dairy foods count as unprocessed in his (and my) definition.

I would have found this challenge almost impossible to do when I was obese because my pantry was at least 90 percent full of processed foods like Velveeta cheese, cheese crackers, microwave popcorn, boxed cookies, and candy. My refrigerator wasn’t much better because I bought chocolate milk for my husband, yogurts with sprinkles on top, and luncheon meat. Even my freezer had frozen lasagne from Stouffers, breaded vegetables ready for frying, and hot dogs.

For me, although it will be a challenge to try and stay away from processed foods altogether, I think I can do it. When I told my kids about our next month’s eating plan, they kinda shrugged and said, “How different could it be?” I took that as a good sign that our eating is basically healthy and they are used to not having a lot of highly processed foods around.

The hardest thing for us will probably be giving up pretzels and low-fat whole-wheat crackers for a month. Although I can make soft pretzels from scratch (recipe here) I honestly don’t think I could do hard pretzels. And I’ve tried making crackers before with my freshly ground wheat and that was a dismal failure.

What do you think? Can you do a day, a week, or even a whole month of unprocessed foods? Let me know what would be hard for you to give up for a time. Diane

12 thoughts on “Taking the October Unprocessed Challenge

  1. KarenJ says:

    The hardest thing about giving up processed food is cooking pretty much everything from scratch. Since I started eating “clean,” I am spending a lot more time in food preparation. But I find that by keeping meals simple, it’s definitely resulted in our eating better food. The only thing I eat that’s processed is my Take Shape for Life nutrition bars and soy crisp snacks, so this challenge will not be all that challenging πŸ™‚

  2. Marc says:

    This sounds like something I can manage. When I go to a restaurant I can either have the egg and steak breakfast, the salad options or the vegetable and salmon meal. At home it’s easy because we have basically stopped buying processed foods except for canned beans and tomatoes and I’m not sure they count. I will shoot for 30 days with the 31st not part of the challenge or whenever the Halloween Costume Party is that we will be attending.

  3. L says:

    I’m giving it a try this year. Think Unprocessed October is a GREAT idea! Thanks for including the challenge on your blog, Diane.

  4. Joe says:

    This sounds like a great challenge. I don’t think it would be easy but I do think it would be an eye opener. I think you’d discover new foods that you’ve never tried and be better for it.

  5. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I am already eating a lot of foods this way anyway so I guess I am in. I don’t eat every day totally clean but close enough for comfort! πŸ™‚ I like this challenge for others because it lets them choose their parameters so they don’t feel like they failed themselves!

  6. Babbalou says:

    For the most part I eat food I cook from scatch, but there are a couple of things that aren’t natural or that are processed that I would have a hard time giving up. I use a variety of prepared Thai spice pastes and other asian spice mixtures. I suppose I could make them myself but choose not to – it’s difficult to get the ingregients and expensive to buy each ingredient separately. I also use a paste-like chicken base to enrich sauces or soups, and while it’s not natural, the ingreient list doesn’t scare me. I don’t know how to make something concentrated enough to work in the way I use it. I don’t eat much of the stuff, but am not sure I’d be willing to go a full month without it. My big issue is splenda. I use it mostly in oatmeal and I can’t eat oatmeal without a bit of sweetener. I can’t or won’t eat sugar or honey and am allergic to agave. And, here’s the excuse coming – I work 12 hour overnight shifts taking care of elderly people in their home or in a care facility. I can’t leave the room during my shift and often there’s no microwave or stove. I bring an electric kettle so I can have tea or coffee (it’s essential that I stay awake and alert). I also use it to make oatmeal. I can’t eat sandwiches (wheat allergy) so the oatmeal, an apple and a yogurt get me through the night. So, spenda is the non-natural “food” I can’t go a month without (unless I give up this job). And maybe chicken soup base. Sigh…..

  7. Karen P says:

    Great challenge to take, IMO. I eat this way 98% of the time and I love it. Foods overall taste better, are healthier, and I feel great.

    Some of the very few downsides are:
    Washing more dishes
    Bringing my food with me on errands and prepping the transport bag
    More time shopping for perishable food
    Time prepping all that fresh foods.

    The health and well being benefits greatly out weigh ( pun intended) the downsides- IMO. I find that when I don’t eat processed foods, I don’t want them so much either. I’ll be curious to see if there are certain items you and your family stop buying/eating as a result of this challenge.

    Good luck and hit me up if you’d like any meal/snack ideas. Karen P

  8. Siobhan says:

    I’m in for the first two weeks … we pretty much eat non-processed anyway. (At least I think that sitting up here in my study. I’m afraid though that as soon as I go down and look in my pantry and refrigerator I’ll discover all the processed foods I forget I eat.) We’ll be living in a hotel and eating out from October 15th to November 6th, so I won’t have the same control over my food. Hopefully by eating two weeks non-processed, any processed foods will not taste good.

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