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Question everything at the grocery store and restaurant. Become a food detective for the sake of your own health and well-being. That’s the premise behind author Vani Hari’s new book The Food Babe Way, that’s destined to become a best-seller! I can relate to the premise, despite finding Hari’s approach to food a bit out-of-touch with the real world.
The author writes, “I hope you understand this, too: The food industry is trying to lead us like sheep into eating processed, fake, chemical-filled foods. Big Food does not want us to pay any attention to ingredients, and I don’t think they give a damn about what those ingredients are doing to our collective health.”
Hari has made a name for herself with the nickname her husband gave her, Food Babe, as an internet sensation. She has grabbed the attention of food companies and the general public in a way that the many physicians, journalists and nutritionists she credits in her book have not. It’s an intriguing concept that in just 21 days, maybe, maybe the rest of us with double chins, muffin tops and caesarean scars could come close to looking like Hari’s early blog photo of herself in a bikini. Not sure I buy all the hype — but who doesn’t want to eat healthier in order to look and feel better?
I met Hari last fall, along with dozens of other bloggers, at the ShiftCon conference in Los Angeles hosted by wellness maven Leah Segedie. Hari shared there some of her personal story that she also shares in this new book. Her experience is something many of us can relate to – that of caring parents who raised her with convenience foods without understanding the health implications. She also shares about a personal health scare that prompted her as a young adult to look at food more like a detective.
Much of The Food Babe Way is common sense in today’s world where we can all admit processed foods have gotten out of control. From the way they’re grown with pesticides to the processing and even the packaging (who’s still heating foods in plastic?), convenience foods have gotten so far away from their natural state that many can barely be considered food anymore.
Hari’s 21-day plan is a way of leading the reader by the hand into more and more good eating habits. That seems reasonable. The meal plans and recipes themselves include not only fresh vegetables and carefully chosen organics, but several mentions of ingredients like kale and wheatgrass — not exactly the typical American diet, but idealistic alternatives. It’s an intriguing idea to try making these changes with recipes included in the book. As with any diet or lifestyle change, she notes that you need to consult your own doctor about what is healthy for you.
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of The Food Babe Way is the way Hari points out key ingredients to watch out for that could make your food at least addictive, perhaps extra fattening or even dangerous. She’s been outspoken about issues like the food industry’s fight to not allow labeling of genetically engineered foods doused with pesticides, and about the common use of food additives with potential links to health harms. Her anti-GMO message alone is enough to draw the ire of critics, since the chemical and agriculture industries are so heavily invested in the engineering of seeds for corporate profit these days.
I’m not convinced that we’ll all look like the Food Babe even if we ditch added sugar, GMOs and fast food from our diets. I’m also skeptical that lemon water and green smoothies will become the norm, just because she recommends them. I don’t even agree with all her word choices such as, “It infuriates me that our food system, pushing cheap, additive-filled food, is so full of poison.”
I still want to give food growers and processors the benefit of the doubt that as they learn better, they’ll improve their standards to meet the healthier lifestyle that everyone wants. I also live in the real world, where struggling and middle-class families like mine sometimes find themselves defaulting into fast food mode and not even able to afford the swanky sorts of restaurants where the chef would invite us into the kitchen to discuss whether all the ingredients are GMO-free. I do agree that personal choices matter in this, and the more often we choose real, wholesome food, the better our food system will become. Most of the tips on choosing healthier ingredients are in line with what many bloggers have been writing about for years, including what we share with you about #CleanCouponing.
This book is an easy read and a well-crafted digest of the latest holistic nutrition information available. If Hari’s bold, in-your-face style gets the attention of mainstream America and readers like you, with our cancer and obesity epidemics, then she’s doing a unique public service. I’d suggest you read her book for yourself, not expecting a 21-day miracle, but using the resources to create your own version of a healthier lifestyle.