As I show in my new cookbook, Food Babe Kitchen, losing weight and getting healthy doesn’t have as much to do with calories, fat grams, or carb counting as you’ve been led to believe.
Maybe your diet isn’t working out for you. Maybe you eat well for a few days, but then find yourself face-first in a gallon of ice cream, or stuffing yourself with McDonald’s.
Or maybe you’re doing your best to live a healthy, active life, but you try all the latest fad diets and the weight always bounces back. You struggle to find a diet that keeps you both energetic and healthy, but never seem to get it dialed in.
Break Free From Heavily-Processed Foods
The secret is to break free from heavily-processed foods that are getting in your body’s way of burning fat and healing your health. You can do this by cooking the majority of your meals at home, and by eating real food. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Yet most of the food lining grocery store shelves is dyed, flavored, preserved, and thickened, with hundreds of different chemicals called “food additives.”
What's in Processed Foods?
The vast majority of processed foods sold in stores are full of ingredients made in factories, and they don’t serve your body any purpose. Some of those ingredients include:
MSG is purely used to increase food cravings and irresistibility, so you eat more than you should. It’s also linked to headaches, obesity, and depression.
Refined sugar has zero nutritional value. Eating refined sugar is addictive, and it makes you fat, tired, and depressed. It also causes you to age faster, it makes your skin dull, it weakens immunity, and when consumed in excess it causes all sorts of diseases.
Although they have no calories, they can contribute to weight gain by encouraging sugar cravings. When you eat something sweet – even when it has no calories – your brain is tricked into wanting more calories because your body is not getting enough energy (i.e. calories) to be satisfied. So you keep craving sweets, eating sweets, and gaining weight. This is why a lot of people never reach their full health potential or weight loss goals. They are constantly being pushed around by these chemical artificial sweeteners that trick the brain and body.
Preservatives are used to preserve the shelf life of food, but they come with health risks. For instance, when the preservative sodium benzoate is combined with either ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or erythorbic acid, it produces benzene, a known carcinogen. Sodium phosphate is a common preservative that can put you at risk of chronic kidney disease if eaten too often. Other preservatives, like BHT, are endocrine disruptors, which have been linked to cancer in some animal studies.
Natural flavors are used to make fake food taste real. They also make processed food addicting, so you keep coming back for more. This is not a single ingredient: Each flavor may contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents, and preservatives.
These ingredients are killing your ability to reach your potential. Not only do they have ZERO vitamins and minerals, but these man-made ingredients could actually cause serious health issues down the road.
Scientists are now blaming chemical-ridden processed foods for the dramatic rise in obesity, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, dementia, mental illness, and more. Our food system is in dire shape — and so are we.
Once I learned this, and started paying more attention to the actual ingredients in my food — and switched to real food — my health improved astronomically.
How I Upended My Diet and Lifestyle and Became a New Person
It’s hard for me to believe that I was once 30 pounds overweight. First as a teenager — and then, later, as a professional management consultant in my 20s — I was fat, tired, and stressed. Always.
All I did was work, work, work, and work some more. If I had a spare half hour, I’d grab some fast food. If not, I’d reach for the closest sugar-packed snack I could find to fend off the hunger shakes.
I didn’t want to continue to live in this fat body that stared back at me from the mirror. So I read. I studied everything I could get my hands on to figure out what was going on with me. I eventually dropped refined sugars and avoided processed foods like the poison they are. I fed my body fresh organic foods — fruits, veggies, grains, good fats, and whole foods — and made time to nourish my body back to health.
3 Simple Food Questions You Should Ask Yourself
In my Food Babe Kitchen cookbook, I explain how all you need to do is ask yourself these three simple questions about your food:
- What are the ingredients?
- Are these ingredients nutritious?
- Where do these ingredients come from?
Easy, right? That’s the beauty of this technique. It’s so simple. Anyone can
Pick up any product in your fridge or pantry and ask yourself these three questions. You might be surprised what you find out!
Let’s Practice, Shall We?
For example, let’s look at Oikos Triple Zero Greek Strawberry Yogurt and answer each of the three questions.
1. What Are the Ingredients?
Cultured Grade A nonfat milk, chicory root fiber, water, less than 1% of vegetable juice concentrate (for color), natural flavors, Stevia leaf extract, sodium citrate, malic acid, sea salt, and vitamin D3.
2. Are These Ingredients Nutritious?
Besides the milk, the rest of the ingredients here are not real food. Instead of using nutritious strawberries to make this yogurt, they use natural flavors and color it pink. Those flavors are created in a lab to make it taste like strawberries, but they have zero nutritional value.
3. Where Do These Ingredients Come From?
This yogurt is not organic or grass-fed. This means the milk comes from cows likely raised on grains and GMO feed, which is not healthy for them and produces less nutritious milk. It also may contain residues of artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, and synthetic pesticides.
In Food Babe Kitchen, I go into much more detail on how to answer these questions, so it will become second nature to you. It curates more than 100 of my favorite recipes, the foods that I make for my own family every single week — and that they love — all in one place. There are also some healthy twists on old (unhealthy) favorites, such as my Chick-fil-A sandwich and homemade Doritos!
It’s a way for you to eat healthfully and close to the earth, with the best ingredients that you choose. When you sit down to enjoy a delicious meal, you actually know what you are eating. Making my own food in my own kitchen changed my life, and it can change yours, too.
Named one of the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet by Time Magazine, Vani Hari is the revolutionary food activist behind foodbabe.com, the co-founder of organic food brand Truvani, and a New York Times bestselling author. Her first cookbook, Food Babe Kitchen, is currently in stores.