Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: Lisa Leake’s diet is a work in real food

Author and blogger Lisa Leakes wants families to eliminate processed foods from their diets. Credit: Kelly Kate Photography
Author and blogger Lisa Leakes wants families to eliminate processed foods from their diets. Credit: Kelly Kate Photography Kelly Kate Photography

Lisa Leake believes in a diet of real food.

Her definition of real food is in keeping with what Leake gleaned from food enthusiasts such as author Michael Pollan, whose “eat food” mantra points people to vegetables, fruits and whole grains and away from processed products that he calls “edible foodlike substances.”

Leake changed the way her family approached food, which meant finding new ways to navigate the grocery store and prepare foods for every meal, including school lunches, snacks and parties. Her “100 Days of Real Food” blog and book are meant to be a guide to help others eliminate processed foods from their diets.

Leake spoke with The Bee during a break from her preparations for a New Year’s Eve party at her family’s Charlotte, N.C., home.

Q. How did you come to the conclusion that you wanted to change your family’s diet?

A. It all started in 2010. We were watching a TV show (“Food 101 with Michael Pollan”) about where your food came from. It was very eye-opening – a huge wake-up call. It answered the “why” behind all the advice you hear.

There was a great film, “Food Inc.,” (the 2008 Robert Kenner-directed documentary on the nation’s food industry). There are a lot of really good books on what (foods) to avoid, but it came down to common sense – preparing wholesome, traditional foods.

Q. From that, you and your family devised a 100-day plan to get processed foods out of your menu plans and it quickly produced results.

A. We said, “What if we took a pledge.” The health of my family is more important than watching a football game. We have to make time for this. A lot of friends wanted to know what changes we were making. One friend said, ‘Start a blog.’ I thought that was ridiculous – I’m not a writer.

We saw changes to our health. My youngest daughter struggled with asthma in 2009. In 2010 (when the plan began), there was a dramatic difference. We had less sickness. I had more energy. I didn’t have that afternoon slump. I thought, “What other underlying changes are there?” We never looked back. … I recognize the transition is hard, but now, for us, it’s the new normal. I can’t imagine living any other way.

Q. We’re fortunate in much of California to have ready access to fresh, locally grown and raised food. You say that, in North Carolina, that access is more exception than rule. What advice do you have for people who don’t have easy access to fresh and healthier food, say those who live in urban “food deserts” and folks in colder climates ?

A. You really have to preserve what’s available in summer months. Freeze fruits and vegetables. Even store-bought frozen vegetables are good because they are frozen at the peak of their freshness. Read the ingredients. You can start that in your pantry right now. This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing change. Try to clean up breakfast first, then lunch and other meals through the rest of the day.

Q. What kind of feedback are you getting from readers of the book and blog?

A. It’s great to see this going mainstream. People are making these changes. They’re losing weight. They’re seeing improvements in their children’s behavior – the amount of sugar they are ingesting has an effect on their behavior. People come up to me in the grocery store and say, “You’ve changed my life.” I find that when people want to make something happen, they find a way to do it. It is so worth it in the end.

Q. What kind of support will people get from your book and blog?

A. I hope they’ll get encouragement. We’re a busy family – I get it – and I don’t expect perfection 100 percent of the time. When they’re reading it I hope they feel they’re talking to a friend.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

Lisa Leake

Best-selling author and blogger

Leake has challenged her readers to rid their diets of processed foods and has provided a guide to accomplish that.