Smarties, it is my high honor to introduce you to this week’s Smarty Mom, Lisa Leake. Lisa is the biggest Charlotte celeb I know with over 1.6 million (that’s right, MILLION) facebook followers, 90K instagram followers, 108,000 Pinterest followers, and 25K twitter followers on her super popular food blog, www.100daysofrealfood.com. She is basically a blogging and social media legend that I am proud to say “I knew her when…” I know it’s crazy to think of life before social media, but before it all happened, Lisa was happily making the cutest super hero capes for kids that I had ever seen (Lisa, my boys LOVED their “fliggity” monogrammed capes back in the day:-) Now Lisa is a social media icon, a food industry influencer, change-maker and soon-to-be two time published author of delicious and healthy cookbooks. Trust me, you’re going to want to buy these for everyone you know after you read the first chapter. And throw everything out of your fridge and start over!
What started as a 100-day pledge for Lisa’s family to eat healthy and most importantly, understand what is in the food her family put in their mouths, turned into a movement that is making amazing changes in the food served to millions of people today. Yep, Lisa is that kind of Smarty. Determined, influential, powerful, passionate – Lisa is a gem and we are so lucky and proud to have her with us here in the Queen City.
Let’s get to know the one and only, amazing Lisa Leake!
Lisa’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Jason Leake / 16 years in September!
Mom of: Sydney (11) and Sienna (9)
Years in Charlotte: Since 2001 (although we moved to FL in 2005 then back in 2007)
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Alma Mater: Clemson
Occupation: Food blogger & activist and author – www.100daysofrealfood.com
What inspired you to start 100 Days?
One night I was watching Oprah (in 2010, back when she still had her show), and she was talking with Michael Pollan about where our food comes from. I realized I had no idea and that might be a big problem. I went on to read Pollan’s book In Defense of Food and was inspired to completely overhaul our diets by cutting out all highly processed food. Before this moment I had never before read an ingredient label, never purchased anything that was organic (at least not on purpose), never stepped foot into a farmers’ market and never eaten an entire piece of whole-wheat bread (because I didn’t like the taste). So big changes were about to happen!
Figuring out our new normal though was no easy task. I lost sleep at night wondering what I would feed my children if goldfish and fruit snacks were no longer an option. After loads of research and trial and error I finally started to find my way and (through the insistence of a friend) decided to share everything I had been learning on a blog.
But I wanted to blog in a way that really drew attention to how dependent Americans had become on processed food, so that’s how I came up with my big plan for my family of four to take a “100 Days of Real Food” pledge. I simply wanted to prove it could be done! For the most part friends and family thought I had lost my marbles, but my husband and kids were on board. So we powered through and never in a million years thought it would take us where we are today!
What is your proudest moment since starting 100 Days?
It’s pretty hard to beat my first cookbook becoming a #1 New York Times Best Seller! Before starting my blog I never even considered writing a book of any sort, much less a successful one. Putting it together was literally the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, but my husband and I still say to each other – it’s so weird I have a best selling cookbook! If you told me 10 years ago this was my future we both would have thought you’d lost your mind.
Scariest moment since starting 100 Days?
National TV appearances have always been something I want to be over before they even start. I try my best to enjoy (okay, maybe “not hate” is more accurate) the experience and remind myself it’s simply another way to spread the word, but it’s just not my thing. I consistently feel like I bomb every appearance in my head (the minute it’s over), and then when I get home and watch it back I think, “Oh that didn’t turn out nearly as bad as I thought.” Every time!
One moment in particular comes to mind when I was taping The Dr. Oz show. The producer was practicing the interview questions with me in the green room, and I was working so hard to remember the order and get everything right. Then as we were literally walking down the hall to the studio with two minutes to go before the taping she said, “We’re actually changing the first three questions and this is how it will go instead…” (My husband was there and later told me his stomach dropped at that moment for me.)
So I had almost no time at all to process this new information, and then a minute later as I (nervously) walked on set with Dr. Oz to do the show the very first question he asked me was clearly off the cuff because it was not any of the ones they’d warned me about or that I’d practiced. Thankfully I didn’t stutter or forget how to speak and managed to respond in a way that made sense. Talk about being happy when that one was over …phew!
What was it like when your hubby decided that he was leaving his job to work “for” or “with” you? And that begs the question, who’s the boss?:-)
Haha, well if you ask our girls they would definitely say that mommy is the boss (and just for the record, they do find that concept to be a little strange). But I could never do this without Jason’s help. Back in 2012, as blog traffic grew, I became so overwhelmed with handling it all by myself and he loathed his corporate job, so it made perfect sense for him to quit and come on board full time to help. Talk about another scary moment on this journey! But the truth is, with both of us having been through corporate layoffs in the past, we feel like we have our finger on the pulse better than ever with it being our own business. So, while it felt like we were jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at the time, I’m glad we took the plunge. Without Jason (and the help of our Sales Manager) my blog would still be a full-time hobby without much of an income. He handles the business side of things, including all the things I have no desire to do (taxes, business insurance, etc.- that was part of the deal!) and is also my advisor for so many decisions. He says the worst day in his job now is better than his best day in his previous job as a Technical Sales Manager. Cubicle life was really not for him, and, while working with your husband is certainly not all sunshine and roses, it works for us!
What is the biggest impact you have made on families since starting 100 Days?
Hearing from families who’ve experienced amazing changes in their health as a result of cutting out processed food reminds me why I do what I do.
Tell us how the average family of two kids would get started cleaning out our fridges!
Your own kitchen is a great place to start! The very first thing to do is understand how to identify real food by learning how to read ingredient labels (which is not as easy as it should be, unfortunately). I made a video with some examples to help: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/12/30/video-read-ingredient-labels/
Then I would recommend getting rid of (or finishing and not repurchasing) anything that doesn’t fit the bill. Getting all that stuff out of our house was one of the best things I ever did. You can’t eat it if it’s not there!
How much more does it cost to “eat clean” and organic? Sometimes it’s daunting and too expensive for larger families. Help! (Can you tell I’m talking about my large brood)
It can jack up the price if you aren’t careful. But with some creativity and planning it doesn’t have to cost that much more. Just remember though – spending more on good quality food now often means spending less on healthcare costs later. It’s worth it in the end!
Top 5 things that are a MUST for all families on any budget.
1. Reduce your consumption of meat and treats (this one is good for your wallet and your health!)
2. When you do eat meat try to stretch it out by mixing in a can of black beans with your ground taco meat, for example.
3. Reduce your consumption of flavored beverages. Plain water is an acquired taste for some, but it’s the cheapest beverage out there!
4. Have a plan because last minute purchases and impulse buys can add up fast.
5. Reduce food waste. Throwing uneaten (spoiled) food in the garbage is the same thing as throwing money away.
Farmer’s market vs. all organic. What is your family’s plan?
There is no good answer if you have to choose between local or organic, but we usually opt for the organic option in that case (especially if it’s on the dirty dozen list). We love shopping local though, and it’s important to know that it’s not easy for small farms to become certified organic so many actually follow organic practices without going through all the paperwork. The best thing to do is ask the farmer directly (at the farmers’ market) how they grow and raise their food. Our favorite local market is the one in Matthews, especially because it’s a growers only market. So the farmer is the one you’re buying your food from …talk about shaking the hand that feeds you!
Tell us about your cookbook(s) and how we can get one.
I am still trying to get used to the fact that I have two cookbooks now! The first one is called 100 Days of Real Food and is both a guidebook on how to cut out processed food and a cookbook with 100 easy, wholesome recipes the whole family will love.
The second one is called 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous and will be out November 1st, but is already available for preorder online. This one basically has the “CliffsNotes” version of how to cut out processed food in the form of cheat sheets, shopping lists, grocery store myths, and more as well as 100 more super easy recipes that can be thrown together in no time at all. Both are available wherever books are sold (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, etc.) and signed copies are available at our very own Park Road Books in the Park Road Shopping Center.
Now that we’re into summer, share your tips for packing pool lunches.
I pack pool lunches just like I pack school lunches. I love the containers with different compartments and only one lid. It’s easier for little ones to open and results in fewer parts to wash when we get home. Plus once the box is full I know I’ve packed enough. I’ve got loads of pictures on my blog and in both my books with lunch ideas!
Favorite summer meal?
Caprese salad with locally grown tomatoes and homemade pesto! Recipe: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/06/02/recipe-caprese-salad-with-basil-pesto/
Favorite Charlotte restaurant with hubby.
Favorite Charlotte restaurant with kids.
Favorite breakfast spot in Charlotte.
Heritage (in Waxhaw) for Sunday Brunch
We honestly never see them and don’t seek them out (at least not at this time!).
Favorite family summer tradition.
Travel! We absolutely love to go on trips together and this summer we’re headed back to Maine after we visit my parents on Cape Cod. It’s the best way to escape the Carolina heat and humidity.
Best sunscreen, in your opinion.
This is a hard one because lot of the “best” sunscreens for skin safety can leave you white and pasty. I do like Goddess Garden because it rubs in better than many of the others, but no matter what I buy I always check the rating first on the EWG (Environmental Working Group) database. They also have an app with all the ratings …for more than just sunscreen!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years.
I honestly don’t know …I feel like blogging is a pretty unpredictable career so it’s hard to say with any certainty. But, no matter what I am doing, I hope I’ve mastered the art of balance by then. Life is sometimes just too busy for my taste, and these days I am constantly in the need of more downtime!
Finish this sentence: Everyday I hope…
…to smile and laugh at something!