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The Crunchy Trail : Mile 1- Step 1

Our first mile is going to be the most challenging for many, require the most changes, and take the largest amount of effort and concentration.  This is a VERY steep part of the trail so we are going to take small steps and rest often. 

This part of the hike cannot be completed quickly, one can’t run on this part of the trail, there is no speed walking; slow and steady is the pace, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  There will be trip hazards, falls, tumbles, don’t worry, just get up and keep going. Allow yourself  rest stops,  wandering room, and escape routes.  Together we WILL get to the top. 🙂  Grab a bottled water, lace up those shoes and let’s get going.

This is post #2 in a series of posts. If  you missed part 1 please click the link below:

Part 1

“The Crunchy Trail” Mile 1


Step 1: Define Real Food & Read your Labels!!

First things first, defining “Real Food”.



: the things that people and animals eat

: material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an    organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy; also :  such  food together with supplementary substances (as minerals, vitamins, and condiments)

: nutriment in solid form

: something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies

Using the above definitions we can reason that “real food” is NOT fake, false, or artificial, that it IS nourishing, sustaining, supplying and that it furnishes energy.  Therefore we want to eat things that are in their purest form whenever possible and consume only foods that nourish and sustain. (with a few exceptions for the sake of fun)

Remember from my introductory post : 

Eat Real Foods =  eat what your great grandparents ate. 

If Great Grandma Beulah wouldn’t recognize it as a food then DO NOT EAT IT!!.

If it has ingredients you can’t pronounce then: DO NOT EAT IT!! 

Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that if YOUR Great Grandma Beulah lived in the Arctic her entire life and never ate a pineapple that you should avoid pineapples. 

I mean, that if any person living 100 or more years ago, anywhere on the planet, wouldn’t recognize it as food then you should avoid it too. 🙂 

It will likely take several posts to cover this first mile. There is so much information  on the subject of real food that I simply can’t put it all in one post, and it would overwhelm everyone, myself included, if I tried.  I want to be thorough, without beating anyone in the head; I want you to enjoy the hike, even the strenuous parts, so stick with me.  I’m still learning too.  

In the future there will be links to other sites, recipes, etc. so that you can continue hiking by yourself. 

For now we are going to start with the basics rules. 

Some fairly simple “Real Food” guidelines to get you started:


  • Foods that contain only one ingredient. Beans, corn, fruit, meat, veggie etc.  No OTHER ingredients. 
  • Foods that aren’t in a wrapper 
  • Foods that you do or “could” grow yourself
  • Foods that you are able to pronounce and are commonly used words
  • Foods free of dyes, artificial colors, artificial flavors, chemicals, etc.
  • Foods that have fewer than 5 ingredients on the label, all of which you are familiar with
  • Foods that do not require a lab or scientist
  • Foods you could recreate at home using real, readily available ingredients
  • Foods that are not “ready” made
  • Foods you find on the outside edges of your store: Meat, Dairy, Produce

Did you know you can make your very own taco seasoning?  It is one of the first things I replaced in my introduction to “real food”.  

Here is how easy it is.  Taco seasoning contains Cumin, Chili Powder, Paprika, Cayenne (optional), Garlic, and Salt.

I throw my meat in the skillet, add the above spices and  VOILA exact same thing as packaged taco seasoning with NO chemicals, NO additives, NO preservative, and NO chemicals.  Also MUCH cheaper. You could even mix up a big batch ahead of time.  

Did you know that you can find “organic” canned foods with less ingredients that cost a few cents more or even a few cents less than store brands and name brands? It is true!!

Yesterday we were on a quest for black beans in a can to go with tacos and kidney beans for chili.  Every single can I picked up listed the following ingredients:

“beans, water, sugar or high fructose syrup, along with some chemical ingredients  I can’t pronounce that ended in “ate, ite, etc..”
The store brand was $1.29, the name brand was $1.79.

Yet, there, on the very top shelf, just out of sight was an organic brand, it was $1.49 the ingredients:  “Organic black beans, water, salt“.

NO JOKE!! Just like I had canned them at home.  NO SUGAR (we will address sugar later)  NO preservatives, NO chemicals.  Nothing but the beans, water and some salt; and they even had them without salt.
In the kidney beans I found the exact same thing.  

These are two small examples, of teeny tiny little changes you could easily make NOW;  without much thought or effort; that will not cost you extra on your grocery bill but will save you much on your health bill. 

If you cut out the sugar and chemicals in every can in your pantry imagine how much you are cutting out of your diet.  

This small step will be making a HUGE change and you will never even feel deprived. 

When you head to the store take time to stop and read the labels, even if it is only in one area per trip.  You will be shocked to find that many of the major brands are loaded full of sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and chemicals and the cheaper brands are often just old fashioned real food with some salt and water added. 

Remember real food is :


Below is my first challenge to you:
There will be a few of these along the hike:
Motivation to keep you moving in a healthier, crunchier direction:

This one will be a 4 week challenge.  Nothing to hard, nothing you have to keep up more than a week unless you just find it so great that you want to keep up. (I’m thinking you will). 

Week 1

Start reading your canned food labels.  Pick veggies and food with the main ingredient, water and salt.  If it has any other ingredients look for an alternative, start replacing the old in your pantry. (Don’t waste food or throw out what is there, finish it up)

Week 2

Add one raw, or minimally cooked fresh/frozen fruit or veggie to each meal.
This is very simple. Here is how I implement this.
Some nights I cut up a pineapple into chunks and set it on the table with the other foods, some meals I make a salad, some nights I throw grapes in a bowl, or wedge up an apple, maybe some sliced tomatoes, carrot sticks, or broccoli tops.  Anything will work, just add one fresh REAL food every day.
Grab some frozen mixed fruits at the store (read the label make sure the fruit and vitamin C/absorbic acid preservative are all that is on the label) throw the fruit in a bowl, drizzle some honey over it and sprinkle with cinnamon.  YUMMY treat with any meal.
Cut a banana up on your cereal, add frozen or fresh blueberries to your oatmeal, cereal, or pancakes. 🙂 

Frozen fruits and veggies are just as good as fresh.  They are frozen at the peak of ripeness and unprocessed. Using them saves TONS of money and makes it affordable to have fruit or veggies at every meal. 

Week 3:  

Go one week without any processed or packaged food.  No chips, no box dinners, no freezer foods (other than frozen meat, fruit or veggies with no additives) No flavor packets.  Plan ahead.  Make a 1 week menu of your meals for 7 days, shop accordingly and prepare ahead.   (I’ll post an example week with shopping list and recipes before week 3 gets here.)

Week 4:  

Go one week without your bad habits:  OUCH!! at the very least cut them in half.  Take the commercial creamer out of your coffee, use real cream or milk instead.  Toss the soft drinks or if you have several a day replace half with water.  Chips, candy bars, junky snacks, etc.  THROW THEM OUT for 1 week.  Package yourself some nuts, dehydrated fruits, homemade trail mix, etc.  I’ll post more examples and recipes before week 4,  along with replacement ideas for all the other bad habits.  This will be the toughest week!! 


I am going to stop and rest here for today.  These are a lot of rules to get use to. I don’t want to overwhelm you or make you feel as if there is no way to ever implement this in your own home.

Again, you don’t have to throw out anything, you don’t have to change everything at once.  Change one item at a time, replace your canned beans with a healthier version this grocery trip, then next trip buy the ingredients to make your own taco seasoning, the next trip pick up a “real food”.

If  you do nothing else right now start label reading.  Seriously, just reading, you can start in your own cabinets, then next time you visit the store read other brands.  When you are ready, purchase better alternatives.

While we are resting here buy this babbling brook,  I will go on ahead and type up some recipes, tips, tricks, and pointers for our next hike.  I’ll try to take some label pictures,  break them down, gather some information on common additives, and offer some healthy alternatives. 

PLEASE!!! Email me each week or stop by and comment here.  Let me know how you are doing, ask me questions, share what you are learning.  Your emails and comments are encouraging and they keep me focused and motivated. I am a procrastinator by nature.  

Better yet, join our facebook group (link below). It is a new group for exploring “Life on the Crunchy Trail”

I promise you if you start making these changes slowly, you will start to see improvements in your health, your mentality,  and your pocket book.   You will find it is not as difficult as it sounds right now and you will really start to enjoy the control you have over your own health.

Part 1

“The Crunchy Trail” Mile 1

Part 2:  

“The Crunchy Trail” Mile 1 Step 1


Stay tuned for
“The Crunchy Trail” Mile 1 Step 2

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