Written by Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules
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 we 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 the 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!
Last year, the participation was even greater — over 3,000 people took the pledge, and we shared over 55 guest posts! There was even a great post on Care2 about the challenge!
This year, October Unprocessed is back, and it’s better than ever. As I write this, nearly 5,000 people have taken the pledge, and my plan is to share 90 guest posts throughout the month. It’ll be tons of recipes, how-to guides, tips & tricks and deeper conversations like ethical food choices, orthorexia and much more.
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 invite you to take a leap of faith with me, and give it a shot. Together, let’s change the world, one bite at a time.