I started following the 100 Days of Real Food blog about two years ago. Since then I have been continually amazed at how one young mom in North Carolina is changing the way our culture views food. In fact, the blog has had such an impact on my life that it actually motivated me to buy my first cookbook in at least seven years. And after having the cookbook for two months now I can say that it would make a fine gift.
If you don’t know about Lisa Leake, she is a mom of two girls who challenged her family to eat “real” food for 100 days. In other words, for 100 days they didn’t eat anything that was highly processed. So no goldfish snacks for the children or boxed macaroni and cheese for an easy lunch. The project was so successful and life-changing that the Leakes never went back to eating all the processed foods they did before. And ever since their blog has helped other families learn about the benefits of eating real food.
I like to say that Lisa is the un-intimidating version of Michael Pollan, The New York Times food expert who leads the pack on this “real food” movement. For one thing, moms can relate to Lisa. She is just a normal suburban mom who makes preparing good food for her family super easy and fun. And, even more appealing, she’s doesn’t come across as judgmental or holier than thou because she chooses to do something out of the cultural norm. Instead, she meets people where they are and encourages them to smart small.
I was attracted to Lisa’s blog because, although I couldn’t articulate it, I always felt strange about eating food products that had 20+ ingredients in them. Michael Pollan likes to say that we shouldn’t be eating anything that wasn’t around when our grandparents were children. Take the fake butter spreads, for example. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on those products? You will find words you cannot pronounce! Lisa and her blog (and now cookbook!) help make eating foods without all these additives both appealing and sensible.
Let me pause here and say that my family certainly eats some processed food (a lot more than the Leake family, for sure!). I don’t like it, but our food habits ebb and flow and sometimes our diet is not as great as I would like it to be (during the recent chaos of moving, for example!). But I have personally seen (as detailed below) what an impact real and whole foods can have on one’s health, so I am always motivated to keep going back to a healthy, real food household. And 100 Days of Real Food helps me do just that.
(You can skip this personal part if you want. Keep scrolling to move on to why I think this cookbook makes a great gift!)
The short version of this story is that my middle daughter was born very premature and had severe reflux as a baby. So bad that she would not drink enough milk to gain weight. For the first six months of her life we struggled to get her to eat (breast and bottle), but we finally had to succumb to the her doctor’s recommendation to give her a g-button (a feeding tube in placed her stomach). We thought that this would solve the reflux problem and help her gain weight.
But for some reason, within hours after she received her g-button, things got a lot worse. Her terrible reflux turned into horrible vomiting. Everything she ate, or that was put through the tube, she would vomit up. And I mean everything. So our daughter quickly went from drinking only a little bit of her bottle to eating NOTHING AT ALL.
Because her vomiting was so bad we had to feed her continuously with the feeding pump (sort of like an IV drip – just a slow, constant pumping into her stomach 24/7). Through her g button we fed her the formula that pediatricians and gastroenterologists usually recommend: highly processed and medical grade Pediasure- type formulas. This went on for years as we sought help from various doctors and therapists.
At the height of my desperation our sweet home health nurse told me about another family she knew who made their own formula for their daughter’s feeding tube. I asked my daughter’s GI doctor about it but he dismissed it as not as good as the manufactured formulas that had been around for decades.
But after a few months of this nurse encouraging me to try a homemade blended formula, I decided that it couldn’t hurt to test it out. After all, not even the most broken-down and prescription grade “gentle” formulas helped my daughter’s vomiting or “failure to thrive” diagnosis. I did a lot of research to come up with a well-balanced formula. I also had to buy a Vitamix blender to get the mixture smooth enough to go through the tiny tube in my daughter’s stomach. My formula concoction included things like chicken, avocado, beans, oils, fruits, vegetables, milk, etc – all “real” foods.
Amazingly, within 24 hours of us switching to this homemade blended formula, my daughter stopped vomiting altogether. Her GI doctor could not believe it (and he was a top doctor here at Children’s in Dallas). He even asked me for the formula so he could give to his other patients. And after a few weeks on the homemade formula, my daughter started gaining weight. Fast forward three years later (and lots of feeding therapy!) she is eating now and is about to get her g button out.
So that’s my personal connection with real food. While there is no medical evidence to prove it, my mother’s instinct tells me that my child could not handle that highly processed, chemical-filled food pumped into her stomach constantly. It also made her cranky and not willing to try to eat. I know that if the only thing that ever went into my body was thick, chocolate-flavored formula I would never want to eat anything either!
Okay so back to 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love. After my real food experience, I was so happy to find someone like Lisa who was explaining how to spread the benefits of real food to the rest of my family. 100 Days of Real Food had recipes that seemed manageable for this overwhelmed and stressed mother so I started trying them. And you know what? Some of my favorite recipes I’ve used over the past two years have come from 100 Days of Real Food and some major food transformations have occurred in our family because of 100 Days. Here are some examples:
1. After making the whole-wheat waffles from 100 Days of Real Food, my family can hardly stand to eat frozen waffles anymore. They are seriously that good, even though they are made with whole wheat flour (who knew?!)!
2. 100 Days of Real Food has reinforced my belief that eating meat at every meal is really not really necessary. (Now I don’t feel so bad we have refried bean tostadas as our meal!)
3. 100 Days of Real Food has transformed the way I send lunches to school and opened my eyes to lunch ideas I never thought about before. (Her cookbook has a whole section just on lunch ideas!)
6. I have always shopped at Farmers Markets, but 100 Days of Real Food has taught me how to buy things other than produce at these markets.7. 100 Days of Real Food has taught me that good home-cooked meals don’t have to be super complicated.
So, you ask, is this book worth buying when you can get so much of the information (and recipes) on the blog? I have had the cookbook since it first came out a few months ago and have been going through it to determine if it’s really worth recommending as a gift. And my conclusion is: Yes!
This cookbook is a perfect presentation and introduction to the 100 Days of Real Food philosophy. The first half of the book is all about the Leake’s journey and the ins and outs of eating real food and the second half is full of simple and delicious recipes. The pictures are vibrant, but don’t seem as staged as some other cookbooks I’ve looked through. Plus, it’s fun to see her cooking alongside her daughters and husband, and makes you want to do the same.
Because it is filled with family dinners and children’s lunch ideas, I think this cookbook makes a fantastic (and non-preachy!) gift for a mom or dad with children at home. But I also think a single professional who likes quick, easy meal ideas would enjoy this cookbook as well.
Currently the cookbook is listed on Amazon for $17.99 (link below), which is a great price for a thoughtful gift. Wrap it up with a cute ribbon and a kitchen spoon and you’ve got a great Christmas gift, too! You could also add some of Lisa’s school lunch essentials to make it an adorable gift basket, too (links at bottom of post):
I have had such a good experience with 100 Days of Real Food and want to share it with one of my readers so I’m giving away a copy of the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook!
All you had to do by Wednesday, November 5th at 10 pm CST is:
1. Like DoSayGive on Facebook.
2. Share this post on Facebook (click coral “Facebook” box rectangle below or copy and paste link into Facebook).
3. Comment below (or on Facebook) why you want to win this cookbook.
Hope you win and happy giving!
Sources (Click for direct link):
Norpro 431 4-Piece Silicone Ice Pop Maker Set – Assorted Colors
(Amazon – 13.95)
Wooden Crate: Michael’s ($9.99 but you can use off 40% coupon!)
Straw Bale: Michael’s ($4.99)
Bracelets: Neely Phelan Jewelry
* U.S. residents only for giveaway.
** If you are interested in the studies I mentioned, check out the 100 Days of Real Food blog or on Facebook.
***If you are interested in the homemade blended formula I mentioned, please message me.