The Food Babe, otherwise known as food activist and blogger Vani Hari, is hell-bent on changing the way you eat. Best known for waging campaigns urging food companies to eliminate toxins in their goods, Hari’s the woman that got Subway to remove a yoga mat chemical from their bread. She also helped convince Kraft to eliminate artificial dyes from some of their brightly hued Mac and Cheese products. And remember when Starbucks released the top-secret (artificially-flavored) formula for their Pumpkin Spice Latte? Yup, that was the Food Babe’s doing.
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Read through her blog, and we guarantee you’ll be sufficiently grossed out about what’s lurking in your meals within minutes. Despite her victories against the food industry, Hari says her proudest accomplishments are the healthy changes she’s inspired in others. “Members of my family are changing their lives based on this information,” Hari says. “They feel good, they look good. It’s amazing.” With her new book, The Food Babe Way, she hopes to share her secrets and inspire healthy changes in even more people.
Hari claims you can change the way you look and feels simply by eliminating toxins from your diet. Easier said than done? Here’s what it’s going to take.
The Food Babe’s Wake-Up Call
The Food Babe wasn’t always a health buff. In fact, she grew up on a diet rich in processed foods. “Both of my parents came from India, and didn’t know how to cook American food, so they really outsourced that to McDonald’s, Burger King and Betty Crocker,” Hari says. “One of my favorite foods was candy.”
“People around me saw this transformation and wanted to know what I was doing.”
As a child, Hari says she suffered from eczema, allergies and asthma, and was often on antibiotics or steroids to control her various conditions. Later, when she was working long hours as a young professional — and eating too much Chik-Fil-A — she started gaining weight. Feeling depressed and unhealthy, Hari hit a tipping point after she was diagnosed with appendicitis — and had to undergo an emergency surgery.
“I thought, ‘I feel horrible, I look horrible’ and I was continuing to have all these issues with eczema and allergies,” Hari says. “I said to myself, ‘This is not the way I want to live.’”
Hari started researching nutrition, and began to realize there were some major problems with the way she’d been eating. “I’d been putting bad food in my body…and not [nourishing] my body.” She started eating a clean diet of whole, unprocessed foods — and began to see results. “Everything changed: My weight, my body shape, my face, my skin. People around me saw this transformation and wanted to know what I was doing.”
How to Eat Like the Food Babe
In The Food Babe Way, Hari concentrates on getting people to eat an additive-free diet— which might be more difficult than you’d think. “When congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate food additives [30 years ago], there were about 800 additives,” Hari says. “Now, there are 10,000 and even the FDA’s deputy commissioner has admitted that the FDA not does not know the amount of chemicals the American public is consuming, and doesn’t know how to adequately safeguard us.”
It’s this knowledge gap that Hari aims to fill with her book. By the second chapter, you’ll encounter “The Sickening 15,” a list of additives to avoid that ranges from growth hormones in meat to trans fats and food dyes. Urging readers to make just one change per day during her 21-day plan, Hari doles out advice on how to shop for chemical-free foods, and even how to avoid additives when you eat out.
Already following Atkins, or another plan? “If you’re on a Paleo diet, or low-fat or gluten-free diet, I show you where the pitfalls are in each of those plans, and how to avoid them,” Hari says.
One of her favorite tips is to aim to make half of each meal raw. “An example of that would be oatmeal, yes that’s cooked, but if you put a cup of blueberries and raw walnuts on top, half of it now is raw,” Hari says. “Your body is getting the nutrition it needs. It stops craving other food, naturally you become satisfied, and you won’t overeat.”
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And if you’re eating out, Hari says, “I show you what to ask the servers so that you can avoid as many toxins as possible, and how to figure out what oils they’re using, or how to modify your meals.”
Most of Hari’s tips are fairly doable (no more soda!), while others are slightly harder to follow (avoiding GMOs). Critics of the Food Babe say that there isn’t enough evidence to support many of her claims about the health risks of food additives — and that she’s fear mongering to promote her blog. But Hari says her activism is backed by research from the World Health Organization, Environmental Working Group and the Center for Science and Public Interest.
“What’s really scary is the truth: Our regulatory system is completely out of control. We don’t know the amount of chemicals we’re being exposed to,” Hari says. “Our autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease rates are through the roof, and I want to stop that trajectory.”