The Ten Week Challenge Syllabus

I walked people through a ten week challenge, using the following syllabus.

Week 1 - Sugar-free
Week 2 - Whole grains
Week 3 - Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats
Week 4 - Raw dairy
Week 5 - The microwave
Week 6 - Fats and oils
Week 7 - Cultured and fermented foods
Week 8 - Local and organic produce
Week 9 - Processed foods
Week 10 - Implementing lifestyle changes

Visit my Recipe Index over at Going Green in a Pink World.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Real Food Testimonial: Aunt Anne

This testimonial comes in from Aunt Anne. She asked me tons of great questions through email during the course of the challenge, and I enjoyed hearing about her variations in recipes. (Edamame kiku?!) Thanks, Anne!

I have enjoyed reading Megan's Real Food blog over the past 10 weeks. I haven't followed her diet but I have learned a lot about foods and I have also tried a few of the recipes which are very good and healthy. There is so much helpful information on the site. For example, I found the list of fruits and vegetables that are most susceptible to pesticides very interesting and now I tend to buy more organic produce. The blog has made me think more about what I eat and how to make healthy choices. I can't believe how much time and energy Megan has put into this. It's like a full time job. Keep up the good work. I love reading the blog. Thanks.

Real Food Testimonial: Lima Bean Green

Thanks to Gayle from Maine, who shares her thoughts today on the challenge:

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking to change my diet and I wasn’t looking to live more sustainably. However, Megan is an extremely busy person and I felt that if since she was going out of her way to teach others what she’s been learning, it’s atleast worth reading! Plus knowing her personally = more credibility in my opinion. And well, I was curious.

I’ve always thought my family’s diet was relatively healthy, but from the past 10 weeks, I’ve learned how small changes can make my family’s diet that much more nutritious. To name a few: soaking seeds/nuts, limiting microwave use, and trying to find/make breads that list/use whole wheat flour as the ingredient.

But more than that, I think one of the biggest changes in the past 10 weeks for me has been what I considered to be good food. Ingredients that I once thought of as fatty kitchen foes like eggs (yolks), crème fraiche (cream items), bacon, and butter are slowly working their way back into my kitchen. I was quite appalled at the blog entry “Yellow Gold,” the picture of the blocks and blocks of $75 worth of butter (was anyone else alarmed?), but spent some time reading up on the benefits of butter after seeing that picture. It’s hard changing old ways, but I am more open to these ingredients as part of a whole, real food diet. And along with these ingredients, thanks to this website, I have been introduced to many new foods like whey, kefir, sprouted grains, and coconut oil.

I was able to pick and choose recipes and ideas that work for my family now, but I know I can come back and implement more ideas when we’re ready. I’m still a ways off, but I feel like I am getting healthier and greener (maybe lima bean green? ☺). Thanks Meg!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Real Food Testimonies: Coming Soon!

I have a few guest bloggers putting together a blurb about their experience with the last few months, so please check back soon!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Eating Out

Week ten is all about transition, so we're eating out this week...out of this blog, that is. Grandma Bea always say the two best thing you can give your children are roots and wings. Hopefully I've given you some roots, and now it's your chance to use your wings! Below are links to some of my favorite real food eating blogs' recipe pages. Browse them, and do some meal planning from there! Enjoy!!

Vehement Flame
The Nourishing Gourmet
Passionate Homemaking
Nourishing Days
Only Slightly Pretentious Food
A Good Appetite
BURP! Recipes
Diet, Dessert, and Dogs
Organic Thrifty
Sarah's Musings

Bonus: Favorite Spring Recipes from Karina's Kitchen!

If anyone else has a blog with a recipe index, or wants to share their favorites, go for it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Processing: Fake Food vs. Real Food

Ready for a shocking statement? My diet is filled with processed foods. Yup, I confess. I eat my food baked, cut up, fermented, sauteed, previously frozen, canned, and/or steamed. So what the heck am I doing blogging about Real Food? Well, let's get our definitions straight. Processing food simply means altering it in some way before consuming it. In fact, in many cases, processing, or cooking our food, helps make it more digestible. But what we've recently (since my grandmother roamed the earth) come to know as processing takes on a whole new meaning. I think the difference is in the manner the food is processed, and what's been added to it during the process. Enter, industrial food processing.

When you prepare food yourself, you have much greater control on the ingredient list. Granted, it can be more time consuming, and require preparation and foresight, but if you live a healthier, more vibrant life, isn't it worth it? However, if you buy food with more than one ingredient in the supermarket, chances are good you're going to find some add-ins in order to--

* Color - Farm raised salmon is pink, right?
* Stabilize - Watery gravy = gross
* Emulsify - Ever had homemade salad dressing? Oil and water just don't like each other...
* Bleach - We need to get the rat poop out of the flour
* Texturize - Nothing's worse than soggy cereal...
* Soften - It's as if the ice cream was churned twice
* Preserve - I'm so glad I can eat that box of crackers three years from now
* Sweeten - Even when it's sweet enough...
* Hide Odors - Do you really want to smell the fish paste in your instant Pad Thai?
* Flavor - Strawberry pop-tarts, anyone?
(Adapted from the Body Ecology site)

Maybe knowing that someone's messing with your food doesn't really bother you, but check out these fast facts to see if they ruffle a feather or two:

1. Harvard conducted a study that showed women who avoided processed carbs cut their heart disease by 30%!

2. Your taste buds become used to the strong flavors of processed foods and make you want to add more salt or sugar to the natural flavors of whole foods.

3. Convenience Foods save little time and lack nutrients, contributing to obesity and water retention according to this article

4. The World Health Organization (WHO) says processed foods are to blame for the sharp rise in obesity (and chronic disease) seen around the world.

5. Americans spend 90% of their food budget on processed foods!

Interesting Resources:

Natalie Butler, a Registered Dietitian, has a series of videos and a website detailing some of her holistic nutritional advice. I just think she's pretty cute, and she has some good basic info regarding processed foods!

Weston Price article on Industrial Food Processing
Freedom You Nutrition - The Dangers of preservatives and additives
Top 5 Hidden Dangers of Processed Foods
Twelve Dangerous Food Additives

Monday, March 16, 2009

Week 10 Testimonies

Hello Fellow Foodies!

I have been in touch with many of you following along in the challenge, though there are a few out there that may not be checking in regularly. I hope all is well with you.

Next week is the last week of the challenge. I'm turning over the blog to you, and I hope you'll help out. I'd love to hear your experience with the last 9 weeks. What was easy? surprising? difficult? frustrating? on your journey to eat real food? Where are you on that journey? No need to have lost weight/gained weight/revamped your kitchen/invented new recipes to participate. This is a journey, not a destination. We're constantly learning new things about ourselves, body, soul, and spirit.

I've recently come to terms with the fact that I can no longer eat apples and pears without intense abdominal cramping. (Why I continued to *test* this is beyond me...) I've been experiencing some other symptoms that have prompted me to look further into my diet to see if I may need to eliminate some other foods, at least temporarily. I'll be blogging about that a bit more next week over at Green in a Pink World.

I share that to say that there is no one-food-lifestyle-fits-all. We are different and our bodies have different needs. I hope this challenge has piqued your interest in fueling your body well, and pursuing real food as a way to help heal and stay well. If that's the case, would you consider emailing me your thoughts for next week's posts? If you have any favorite recipes, please include those as well! For spamming reasons, I'm typing out my address, but you get the point. =)

meganmassaro at gmail dot com

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shopping list for Week 9

2 chicken sausages
1 lb turkey sausages
4 chicken breasts

4-5 beets
bag of yellow onions
2 red onions

Dried or Canned Items
Rolled or steel cut oats
whole wheat flour
dried apples
pomegranate molasses
2 c white beans

goat cheese log
plain yogurt
creme fraiche
Parmesan cheese

Things you may have on hand...
tomato sauce
sesame seeds
pecans (egg salad)
olive oil
white wine

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Week 9 Menu

I know everyone is busy, and this transition to real food can be an incremental process. With that in mind, next week will deal with processed foods, and hopefully give you some pointers on what to look for if you're going to buy pre-made or processed foods. I hope to throw in some advice on eating out as well!

I've been working on some new recipes, but am trying to be discerning about which ones I post. I want them to be yummy, nutritious, and work well! If you're sick of the same old, same old, mix things up and check out some other blogs for new recipes. (I just can't guarantee I've tried them. =)


Bread - Seeded Sour No Knead (this is Mark's favorite!)

Soup - Sauerkraut Sausage Soup



Oatmeal with chopped apples or bananas
Roasted Beet and Cheese Pie (Likely needs to be made ahead for a weekday meal, but it's worth it!)

Turkey sausage patties and sunny-side up eggs with seeded sourdough


Quinoa Mushroom Casserole

Caesar Salad

Easy Egg Salad

Walnut Pomegranate Chicken and sauteed greens

Play with some Pizza

Sauerkraut Sausage Soup with baked Sweet Potato

Butternut Squash fries

Peanut Butter Cups (Mark and I have eaten about a dozen of two days!)

Power Bars

Crispy or sprouted nuts

Natural yogurt (no added sugars or "vitamins") with unsweetened coconut, soaked nuts, and cocoa powder

Hummus with veggies or crackers

Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil

celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hump Day Exercise Challenge

I slacked on my exercise challenge last week...and maybe the week before that too. But you'll forgive me, won't you? I've been doing Zumba at the gym, with a new instructor on Tuesday evenings. It's so invigorating. I think all of the women in the room (and that old, creep guy, too!) feel young, strong, and sexy. In a non-exploitative way. It's an hour of letting loose to fun music, shaking your butt, and twisting those hips like you mean it: all for the sake of a good workout. There are times when I've almost been brought to tears just looking around the room and watching short women, tall women, skinny ones, fat ones, young ones, old ones, brown and white, yellow and tan ones, coming together without shame, with plenty of grace and smiles for all. So if you can't dance, don't worry. Most of the people in the class move to the beat of a Seriously. Sometimes I have to stifle my giggles as I watch some of the middle aged women trying to do those "hip gyrations" as my mother would say. Not that I'm much better...Suffice it to say, this is not a class of dancers!

If you have access to a gym that offers Zumba classes, you should definitely give it a try. Sometimes you can find Zumba on those extra cable channels that we don't have, so I can't exactly give you more info than that. You can find some workouts online if you search for "zumba" under the video tab in google. But the best place for a good workout might just be in the audiovisual section of your local, free library! Get moving!

A 2007 segment on The Today Show's "Take it Off Today" featured the Zumba craze.

Zumba in the Today Show -

Monday, March 9, 2009

Avoid the Dirty Dozen

If you're going to buy organic as you can afford it, check out this list, at, which is available in a printable wallet version. At their site, "Food News," the Environmental Working Group says that we can reduce our pesticide exposure by a whopping NINETY PERCENT if we avoid the "dirty dozen," which are the twelve most contaminated fruits and veggies.

So what are the most heavily laden fruits and veggies?
Peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, cherries, imported grapes, pears

But this little ditty of a post wouldn't be complete without some good news. The produce that carry the least amount of pesticides?
Onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, and bananas.

I hope this brief little post will be useful and influential on your next shopping journey! I will be designing next week's menu with the dirty dozen in mind.

Week 8: Organic Produce

If you think organic produce is a marketing scheme that will just drain your wallet, or you're a bit skeptical about the whole industry, lend me your ear for a moment or two...

I would like to first start out by saying that I do not buy organic or local produce only. I liken my food convictions to my faith convictions. I feel strongly that patience, for example, is something that God desires for me: both for the benefit it will extend to me, as well as the blessing it will be to the one who receives it. However, there are times when I view patience as too costly, and I choose (though not so blatantly) to replace it with anger, frustration, or bitterness. Ironically, the latter three emotions are far more costly in the long run: they eventually morph into anxiety, depression, and self-pity. But at that moment, patience just didn't seem worth it.

Buying organic sometimes feels like this. I don't know if its worth it - and when I'm looking at the prices in Whole Foods, (I don't enjoy shopping there, but Massachusetts Farmers' Markets are very seasonal...) it's sometimes hard to justify. So sometimes, I don't. I just buy conventional. However, after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, when I reach for the $1.99/lb peppers instead of the $3.49/lb organic variety, I hear this little voice in the back of my head telling me that the run-off from the pesticide laden fields is seeping into our water supply, killing fish, contributing to cancer, deteriorating the health of the migrant workers in the fields of California...And most of the time, I put back the lemons and decide to make hummus without them, or lay aside the bananas until I make it down to Good Health, where they sell deliciously ripe organic bananas for $.29 a pound. But still, sometimes I don't. I say that because I want you to know that small steps are better than no steps. If you really want to make a mango salsa, but the organic mangoes cost $3 more than the conventional ones, and substituting just won't work - get what you can afford, but pay close attention to the rest of your list, as maybe the organic onions are only $.49 more a pound. Every step counts.

That said, I want to make it very clear where I stand and what I'm striving for. To me, organic produce, grass-fed meat, and fairly traded or recycled products aren't luxury items. They are a priority. Mark is unemployed and I'm not exactly raking in the dough, so our food budget is modest. But by eliminating processed foods, we're able to buy a good deal more in the fresh food department. And maybe it means we rent movies from the library instead of going out to the movie theater. Or perhaps I still wear those comfy blue corduroys I stole from my little sister's friend' in 2001...(they're so darn comfortable, really!) Or maybe we don't buy supplements and vitamins, because the food we consume is already filled with them.

I'll give some more "hard" facts in the coming days, but I have to say, although the information appeals to the head, what keeps me striving towards an organic lifestyle is my heart. I want my kids and their kids to enjoy the beauty of our land, in as optimal health (through good nutrition of course!) as possible.

Aruba, 2008. Photo by Mark Massaro

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shopping list for Week 8

1 lb sirloin or stewing beef
Whole chicken
1 lb chicken (breast or thighs) if you are adding chicken to the root vegetable cobbler
1 lb bacon

1 bag small onions (about 6)
1lb bag carrots
1 red, 1 green pepper
1 eggplant
1 leek
1 pound of red potatoes
1 russet potato
1 turnip
1 c peas
fresh ginger root
3 apples
fresh parsley
salad greens

Canned or Dried Items
dried cranberries
1 can coconut milk
lentils (2 c)
pumpkin puree
12 - 13 oz canned clams (or fresh!)
1 large can salmon
clam juice or seafood stock (~2 c)

cage free eggs
plain yogurt (Seven Stars Farm, Hawthorne Family Farm)
whole milk
2 c heavy cream

Other staples
coconut oil (favorite source - Mountain Rose Herbs: $41 for 1 gallon of unrefined or $22 for refined, which will last forever!)

spices: allspice, coriander, cumin, red pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric

You'll also need, but probably have on hand -
whole wheat flour

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Week 8 Menu

We'll be talking about organic produce this week. The menu does include some vegetables, but I do try to choose seasonally, so some of the info you'll be learning might be best tucked away for the late spring/summer!

I've decided to post a list for you to choose from, rather than a weekly menu (as it seems most people are picking and choosing anyway!!) All of the meals will include enough for two nights' dinners, for two people, so you'll be preparing dinner just three evenings (or if you're like me, all in one day to minimize cooking!). Adjust recipes accordingly if you are cooking for more than two.


When necessary, prepare these early in the week so you have them on hand for recipes and munching!

Bread - No Knead Cranberry Pecan Bread

Soup - Coconut Curried Lentil Soup

Snack - Pumpkin Bread

French Toast

Carmelized Apple Pancake


Clam Chowder

Salmon Cake Salad

Root Vegetable Cobbler with Millet Dumplings (did you make this yet?? you really must!)

Coconut Curried Lentil Soup

Crockpot Chicken with roasted carrot puree (Don't forget to save the carcass!)

Spiced Beef and Vegetables

Butternut Squash fries

Peanut Butter Cups (Mark and I have eaten about a dozen of two days!)

Power Bars

Crispy or sprouted nuts

Natural yogurt (no added sugars or "vitamins") with unsweetened coconut, soaked nuts, and cocoa powder

Hummus with veggies or crackers

Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil

celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fermentation Recipes and Resources

I'd recommend trying at least one recipe over the next week. I'll be including a soup made with sauerkraut in week 8, so you may want to try that one!

Here are two ways to ferment cabbage:
Sauerkraut with whey

And a recipe for fermented bean paste:
Fermented Bean Paste

Kefir is fermented milk, as is yogurt. Learn how to make each of them at home!

Fun with Fermentation
Wild Fermentation
Benefits of and recipe for Kimchi
Delicious Organics' Fermented Foods