Named as one of the “Most Influential People on the Internet” by Time magazine, Vani Hari is a food activist, New York Times best-selling author of The Food Babe Way, and co-founder of Truvani. For most of her life, Vani ate whatever she wanted—candy, soda, fast food, processed food—until her typical American diet landed her where that diet typically does, in a hospital. Despite her successful career in corporate consulting, Hari decided that health had to become a priority. Her newfound goal drove her to investigate what is really in our food, how it is grown, and what chemicals are used in its production. The more she learned, the more she changed and the better she felt.
Encouraged by her friends and family, Hari started a blog called foodbabe.com in 2011. It quickly became a massive vehicle for change. Foodbabe.com has led campaigns against food giants like Kraft, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Subway, and General Mills that attracted more than 500,000 signatures and led to the removal of several controversial ingredients used by these companies. Through corporate activism, petitions, and social media campaigns, Hari and her Food Babe Army have become one of the most powerful populist forces in the health and food industries. Her drive to change the food system inspired the creation of her new company, called Truvani, where she produces real food without added chemicals, products without toxins, and labels without lies. Hari has been profiled in The New York Times and USA Today and has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, The Dr Oz Show, The Doctors, and NPR. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Finley, and daughter, Harley.
We chat with Hari about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle this year, how food affects our sleep and more.
1. Eating healthier is among the top three most popular unkept new years resolutions in North America--unfortunately, most fall off their new healthy diets by the end of January. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle all year long is something that you’ve mastered and made a priority in your life. And, you’ve inspired major positive change within the nutrition space. What keeps you motivated? What inspired you to choose this path?
In my early 20’s I had a health scare that completely changed my outlook on how I wanted to take care of my body. I had let my work life take over and had my wake up moment. I was sick, overweight and looked horrible, but from that day forward, I made a personal promise to make health my number one priority.
And then when I started eating an organic whole food diet something dramatic happened. All the issues I had as a child—asthma, eczema, allergies went away. I was on several 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.
Especially now that I’m a Mom I more motivated than ever to take good care of my health. Being energetic enough to keep up with her really keeps me motivated to stay healthy. And, I love setting a good example for my daughter. I want nothing more than to watch her grow up and hopefully have children of her own one day.
2. Foodbabe.com is such an amazing resource for nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle, helping your audience with everything from meal planning to shopping lists and recipes in addition to the wealth of information and guides that you have. For someone with little to no experience in this area, where and how do you recommend they begin if they are looking to make a positive change this year?
The best advice I can give anyone trying to get healthier and learn more about their food is to start reading ingredient labels and stop looking at the front of the packaging for information about the product and its health benefits. I read ingredient labels closely. It’s the best way to know what’s truly in a packaged food and whether it’s good for you. This may take time and prolong your trips to the grocery store, but if you care about your health, it’s well worth the time and effort. Plus, practice makes perfect; the more you do it, the faster you’ll get.
In my latest book, Feeding You Lies, I take this a step further and walk you through three simple questions to ask yourself that will dramatically improve your food decisions. It all begins with knowing what is in your food. You don’t have to make a full-time career of food activism and investigating as I have. You just need to ask, and answer, three simple questions about food:
- What are the ingredients?
- Are these ingredients nutritious?
- Where do these ingredients come from?
I believe that if you can select food based on your answers to these three questions, you’ll put yourself—and your loved ones—on the path to a healthy lifestyle right away. Plus, you’ll be fighting back against those guilty parties who are trying to contaminate our foods in the name of profits.
3. Who do you admire most within the nutrition and food activism space? What would you make them if they came by for lunch?
I would have loved to have met Rachel Carson when she was alive. She started the environmental revolution which led to getting the dangerous pesticide DDT banned over 40 years ago - so she is one of my heroes. I imagine I’d make her a big bowl of my Melt In Your Mouth Kale Salad with some of my famous almond butter brownies for dessert!
4. In your opinion, what impact does food have on our sleep? Are there changes or tweaks we can make to our diet to get better sleep?
When I don’t get enough sleep, I want to eat everything in the house and get really bad food cravings! A good night’s sleep naturally turns off the hunger hormones. When my body has enough time to recharge I find that bad food cravings are not as intense. That’s one reason why I love to sleep and don’t let much get in the way of it. I try to get a least eight hours a night, sometimes more. I also exercise almost every day. Exercise for me is more about stress relief than aesthetics. This helps me sleep better as well.
5. What’s your go-to late-night snack?
I don’t typically snack late at night because it can interfere with my sleep and I also like to fast at night. That means I go without eating for at least 12 hours from the time I eat my last meal until the time I “break” the “fast” with breakfast. I try to eat my last meal somewhere between 5 PM and 7 PM, go to sleep around 11 PM, and then I “break the fast” at or about 8 AM. One of the most amazing things I immediately noticed after I adopted this habit was that I woke up with more energy and was better rested. If you’ve ever gone to bed with a full stomach, you know what I mean!
Instead of snacking, I love to sit down with a cup of herbal tea at night. It really relaxes me and is a comforting way to get ready for bed.
6. It’s been such a pleasure learning from all your amazing resources so far--we are so excited to continue to follow your career. What’s next for you?
Right now I’m busy getting Feeding You Lies into the hands of everyone I can. This is not your typical diet and health book. This is a revealing investigation into the food industry’s playbook. You’ll become your own health investigator after reading this book - and stop falling victim to the food industry’s lies that have kept us from feeling our best. You’ll learn:
- How nutrition research is manipulated by food company funded experts
- How to spot fake news generated by Big Food
- The tricks big food companies use to make their food addictive
- Deciphering why labels like "all natural" and "non-GMO" aren't what they seem and how to identify the healthiest food
- Food marketing hoaxes that persuade us into buying junk food disguised as health food
- The "Three Question Detox" technique that will improve every food decision you make
An easy-to-follow "48-Hour Toxin Takedown" to avoid the chemical onslaught - and get healthy in the process
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