Interview: THE FOOD BABE

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Here at VerMints we were fortunate to interview the amazing food activist, Vani Hari. She and her loyal Food Babe Army are changing the food industry one step at a time. Find out what she has to say below! 

Vani Hari is a revolutionary food activist, creator of and author of The Food Babe Way. In her work, Hari has influenced how food giants like Kraft, Subway, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks create their products, steering them towards more healthful policies. She lives in North Carolina and travels around the world to speak about health and food awareness. She is currently planning her next campaign. 



1. When do you feel the most discouraged with your work?

When I dedicated my life to being a food activist I knew the fight was going to be a long and difficult one. There is so much that needs to change. I focus on keeping my eye on the ball and celebrate the victories along the way. My vision of what is possible for the health of this nation is what keeps me motivated. If I’m ever feeling discouraged it is only because I have lost sight of that vision.

2. Is there a specific highlight you can recall, after ending up in the hospital and starting your new healthy lifestyle, which pushed you to continue your investigative and healthful endeavors?

The day I decided to quit my corporate job and devote all my time to food activism was a pivotal moment. At that point I took a huge leap of faith and left a successful career in order to pursue the things that I really wanted for my life. I knew I needed to make huge changes in the food industry and that the battle was going to be one that required a lot of time and energy. I look back on that day with fond memories. I am glad I had the courage to quit my corporate job and take a stand for my biggest vision of life, this is my calling.

3. From your past successes with the loyal Food Babe Army, have you noticed an increase or decrease in cooperation from companies?

I would say it’s a little bit of both. Change is happening and I’m seeing a lot of progress across the industry, as companies are starting to remove artificial and unnecessary additives from their products. After I petitioned Subway and they removed the additive azodicarbonamide from their bread, Pizza Hut, Bimbo Bakeries, Martin’s Potato Bread, Nature’s Own, Olive Garden, Starbucks, and Publix Grocery Store announced plans to remove the chemical from their products too. Last year, Panera Bread announced they’re removing all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, Chipotle is ditching GMOs, and McDonald’s is simplifying and possibly getting rid of some preservatives. Chick-fil-A is finally going to start serving chicken that wasn’t raised on antibiotics, and Carls Jr. now has a “Natural” burger with grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics or added hormones - although the bun and toppings are still dreadful, it’s a start in the right direction.

There are also companies who are more resistant to change regardless of the public’s demand for safer, healthier food. I’d say Starbucks is one of these companies. In late 2014 I did an investigation into the Pumpkin Spice Latte which contains Class IV Caramel Coloring (linked to cancer). After receiving a lot of press and pressure from the Food Babe Army, Starbucks announced that they would take steps to remove caramel coloring from their drinks. They have yet to provide a timeline, although they don’t use caramel coloring in their drinks overseas so its clearly possible. I’m looking forward to what 2015 brings and am hopeful that Starbucks will implement this change soon.

4. I know the Food Babe Army emphasizes your investigations and discoveries, however, what do you feel is your largest personal accomplishment?

Writing The Food Babe Way is definitely my biggest achievement to date. I know that this book has the ability to change the way the world eats. The Food Babe Way works because it is a day by day approach to breaking free from the hidden toxins in your food. This was the book I wish I had when I initially set out to lose weight, start eating more healthy, and started learning about our food system and how corrupt it has gotten.

5. What current investigations are you working on?I’m going to continue to educate people about what’s in their food. I am currently working on my next investigation and focusing on spreading the messages and life changing habits I’ve written about in The Food Babe Way. This is truly the book the food industry doesn't want you to read.

6. If you could pick out the 3 worst ingredients, in your opinion, (that you never touched/will never touch again) what are they and in what foods have you seen them appear most often?

In The Food Babe Way I highlight the top 15 sickening chemicals in your food to avoid if you want to lose weight, feel and look years younger. Here’s three of those:

1.Artificial Sweeteners - These may do more harm than good, they may slow down your metabolism and “train” you to crave sweets. Also, the presence of artificial sweeteners in a product doesn’t automatically mean high-calorie sweeteners aren’t present, too. Some food manufacturers use both. Look for aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, erythritol, acesulfame potassium, and acesulfame K on the label. You can also find them under brand names “Nutrasweet,” “Sweet N’ Low,” “Equal” and “Splenda.” They can be found in sodas, candy, yogurt, desserts and many other processed foods. Try and find foods that are sweetened with natural sweeteners like fruit, honey, maple syrup, 100% pure stevia or coconut palm sugar and eat these foods in moderation.

2.MSG & hidden MSG additives - Used as a flavor enhancer, MSG is one of the most fattening ingredients that can also cause adverse reactions in some people including skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures. Hidden forms of it can be listed as yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, natural flavor or textured protein. It is commonly found in restaurant foods, chips, dips, frozen dinners, salad dressings and soups.

3.Preservatives - Some common examples are sodium phosphate, nitrates, BHA, BHT and TBHQ. These additives are potentially cancer causing and/or endocrine disruptors. Preservatives are commonly found in cereals, crackers, snack foods, cakes. Try choosing fresh foods that do not have a long shelf life or organic brands that do not use preservatives.

7. Are your family members dedicated to healthy eating as much as you are?

I am so inspired by my brother, who in particular, was initially resistant to my lifestyle. He began implementing the habits I teach in The Food Babe Way and has now lost several pounds! I have never seen him look this good! My brother’s transformation is evidence for me to continue doing the work I am doing.

8.As far as breath freshening products, gums and candies go, what are some of the worst ingredients in them and why?

One of the reasons people chew gum is for weight loss. Chewing gum keeps your mouth occupied so you don’t reach for food, right? The main ingredient in most chewing gums and breath mints are artificial sweeteners, and consuming them will not work as long term strategy for weight loss. Artificial Sweeteners are proven to stimulate your appetite, increase carbohydrate cravings, and promote fat storage and weight gain. Furthermore, there are more dangerous side effects from artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, which is considered one the most dangerous substances allowed in our food supply. Over 10,000 complaints have been filed with the FDA on this substance since 1980 and has actually never been proven to be safe before it was approved for use. Many of them also contain the controversial preservative BHT. According to the respected EnvironmentalWorking Group (EWG), animals fed BHT have developed lung and liver tumors, and there are indications that it maybe an endocrine disruptor. Safety research is contradictory and scientists agree that more research is needed to prove its safety.

9. Looking towards the future, are you working on any ways to improve accessibility for organic and nutritious foods?

Yes, that is always my focus.I’ve made it my mission to see that everybody has access to safe and affordable food and knows exactly what is in their food. I’ve partnered with some of the amazing organic and non-GMO companies I personally use, and advertise them on my blog. I believe it’s important to promote these companies that are doing the right thing so that more people have access to these great products.

10. What was your favorite press acknowledgement and why?

Last year I had a piece written about me in Colombia’s biggest newspaper, El Tiempo. This was one of my favorite press acknowledgements because it prompted so many people from South America to reach out to me and join the conversation about real food. It was so inspiring to see how food is truly a universal connector. I was excited that Colombians were beginning to ask questions about where and how their food was grown and was thrilled to be part of their investigation.

11. What is the largest difference you’ve seen in your own health from switching to more nutritious, pure foods as opposed to foods chemically laden and composed of harmful ingredients?

While I was working as a management consultant, I let my work life take over, I was sick, overweight and looked horrible. And then when I started eating organically something dramatic happened. All the issues I had as a child—asthma, eczema, allergies went away. I was on six – eight different prescription drugs depending on the season and I’m on zero today. My weight normalized, and I actually lost another 5 pounds (on top of the other 30+ pounds I gained!) I began to have more energy than I had when I was years younger! The way you treat yourself, the way you treat your body, what you put in it, can make a HUGE life changing difference.

12. Do you have any advice for those individuals who are trying to make the transition to healthy eating?

The most important thing someone can do is change where they shop to a natural grocery store. Then begin to read ingredient lists and stop looking at the front of packaging for information about the product and its health benefits. Read labels and start to research what you are eating. 

Pick up a copy of her book on her website, or Barnes and Noble