[Transcript] – Eating Healthy At Parties, Hidden Toxins In Your Children’s “Health Food,” Why Baby Food Has MSG & More With Food Babe Vani Hari.

Affiliate Disclosure


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/vani-hari-podcast/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:14] Guest Intro

[00:03:17] How to choose your breakfast oats

[00:08:05] How did Vani feed her children when they were babies?

[00:12:32] The importance of providing a variety of food

[00:16:26] The dangers of MSG

[00:25:53] Are there any good snacks for kids?

[00:34:08] Are Veggie Straws healthier than Ruffles Potato Chips

[00:36:53] What to do with birthday parties

[00:50:58] Vani’s meal planning

[00:53:53]  Closing the Podcast

[00:55:26] End of Podcast

[00:55:48] Legal Disclaimer

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Vani:  If you were to look at any of the studies that they do on obesity, one of the things that they give rats to make them fat so they can study obesity-related diseases and obesity-related drugs and other things is MSG or MSG compounds like autolyzed yeast extract. And so, what that does to your brain, it actually hijacks your taste buds and it makes you remember a flavor, and it makes your mouth water, it makes you want to finish that meal, it makes you want to eat more than you should. It triggers a part of our brain that is the ultimate pleasure zone of food. And, this is why food manufacturers have figured out if they add it to their food, they will hook a customer for life.

Ben:  Fitness, nutrition, biohacking, longevity, life optimization, spirituality and a whole lot more. Welcome to the Ben Greenfield Life Show. Are you ready to hack your life? Let's do this.

Alright, folks. Well, I am holding up a brand-new book that just hit my front doorstep a couple of weeks ago. It's written by somebody who creates actually a lot of, I guess you would say, controversy in the realm of nutrition. She's known as “the Food Babe.” Her name is Vani Hari, and I had her on my podcast years ago about her controversial articles, about things like yoga mat chemicals in our subway sandwich bread or meat or something like that. I don't even remember. But anyways, she definitely creates some waves in the industry as a food activist, a food activist, but she's also a New York Times bestselling author. She has an organic food brand named Truvani. She was one of the most influential people on the internet according to Time Magazine, and she runs FoodBabe.com where she spreads information there, and on her Instagram and elsewhere about what really is in our food kind of makes you squirm a little bit. 

And Vani, I have to tell you this. What I appreciate about you and particularly the reason I want to have you back on the show was because it's really easy to say all the things that are going to kill you, but it's a little bit harder to say what to do when kid goes off to a birthday party as a parent when it comes to trench proven strategies that someone with experience like you is actually implemented and written about.

So, first of all, if you're listening in, I'll link to Vani's new cookbook. It is going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/FoodBabeFamily. That's where the shownotes are. That's where her book is. That's where you'll find our previous podcast, BenGreenfieldLife.com/FoodBabeFamily. More, more than 100 recipes and foolproof strategies to help your kids fall in love with real food. Vani, welcome back to the show.

Vani:  Thank you so much for having me, Ben. It's great to reconnect with you. It's been a while. I've been busy having children, taking care of children. And so, I haven't been on the travel circuit as much. And so, I haven't seen you. 

Ben:  How many kids do you have now?

Vani:  I have two. One is two and one is six.

Ben:  Okay, that's not too bad. I've got two also. It still can be a handful at that age. And, I guess I should jump straight to the elephant in the room. What did you and your kids have for breakfast this morning because we're recording this on Monday morning?

Vani:  So, every night, I make sprouted glyphosate-free oatmeal in my crock pot because it's one of the first things that I can give to my kids first thing in the morning that's hot and ready to go. And, I put ground fresh flax seeds. So, I grind my own flax seeds every three or four days. Otherwise, they get kind of rancid and they lose that DHA that's in omega-3s that are in there and it's not as bioavailable. So, I grind my own and I put that on top and then I put cinnamon. And then, sometimes we add nuts, sometimes we have berries, we eat a lot of pomegranate seeds. And so, I put all of that stuff on top and they love it. It's the first thing they usually eat because they just love something hot and nourishing.

There's a lot of controversy around oatmeal because Quaker Oats was found to have high levels of glyphosate in it, and that's because it's desiccated with Roundup before it's harvested. But, there's a brand called One Degree that I found they have no affiliation with them but they test their oats for glyphosate and they're certified glyphosate-free and they're organic and they're sprouted. So, they remove the phytic acid that makes oats more digestible. So, it's a wonderful nourishing thing to have first thing in the morning. And then, I have time because they're little rascals in the morning, they're so hungry, I have time to make something else, whether that's a smoothie or some chicken sausage or bacon or something else to go along with that porridge. And, we call our oatmeal porridge. 

Ben:  Yeah.

Vani:  And, that's what I make every morning. 

Ben:  I think a lot of people might be wondering about the oats thing because like you said oats are super popular, even in the health industry. You buy overnight oats all over the place and I would say that they're still considered to be healthy, but you said, I think, “desiccated with glyphosate.” What's that mean?

Vani:  Well, what happens right before harvest in order to kill all the weeds that makes it easier to get the oats is they literally spray it down with Roundup. And, they do the same thing with wheat too in this country. So, people are really excited when they see the non-GMO label on all of these products, but unless it's certified glyphosate-free wheat or oats, it likely has glyphosate along with almonds, lentils, beans, pea protein, so many different things out there that are harvested with the use of Roundup. So, we have to do our best to not only buy organic that helps prevent that second stage of harvesting of what happens on the field but also because organic can sometimes be contaminated with glyphosate, you want to look for that glyphosate-free label. And, something I'm feeding my kids on a daily basis or, you know, weekly basis or whatever, I want to make sure I'm choosing the best product available. And, I also want to choose the right type of oats. So, a lot of overnight oats are made with instant oats or rolled oats and you can get even a granule or better when you do steel-cut oats that are also sprouted because the steel cut is going to digest slower in the digestive system make you feel full longer. And then, also when it's sprouted, again, it's removing that phytic acid, which can disrupt kind of nutrient absorption. And so, you want to remove that as well.

Ben:  Yeah. I actually do steel-cut oats that I'll sometimes add to a smoothie for a little bit of a filler and I soak them overnight with apple cider vinegar. I forgot the brand you mentioned. I might have to have you repeat it, but I've been using Dr. Thomas Cowan's. He's a doctor who has Cowan's vegetable powders. So, they do ashitaba and low oxalate greens and beet powders, but they also have a steel-cut oat that's pretty good and that I don't know if it's certified glyphosate free but knowing Thomas, it's a clean oat.

Vani:  Is this the same Cowan from the Weston A. Foundation?

Ben:  That's him. Yeah.

Vani:  Yeah, he probably does then because they take this very seriously. Yeah.

Ben:  And, what was the brand that you used for the oats?

Vani:  One Degree. It's called One Degree.

Ben:  One Degree. Okay, cool.

What did you feed your kids before they could chew, when they were babies besides breast milk? As far as baby food goes, how did you tackle that?

Vani:  So, I breastfed my first child until she was three and a half. She just stopped all on her own one day. It was so beautiful because I was worried that I was going to have to wean her. She just weaned naturally. It was so beautiful to watch. And then, my second child, I'm still breastfeeding him. He's about to turn three and he's starting to slow down. But, breast milk is just absolutely incredible for kids, and it's been such a wonderful thing that I've been able to do by kind of designing my life around my children in a way because I run two companies. I run Food Babe and I also help run Truvani. And, it's a lot of work being a working mom and a breastfeeding mom. I mean, there's all of these memes that go around the internet that show that the time it takes to breastfeed equates to a full-time job in terms of hours. 

And so, it's been so wonderful to be able to do that, but one of the things I did as soon as I started learning about how to transition to food when they were young is I waited until six or seven months, first of all. I waited longer than the average child that actually they usually start at four months. And, I think that's too early, especially if you're able to breastfeed or have some kind of nourishing form of homemade formula. There's also better formulas these days, but I waited till about six and a half to seven months and then I started with every single vegetable I could get into my child's hands so that they would understand the bitter complex flavors of a vegetable and their palate wouldn't be immediately introduced to sweet foods. So, I waited on carrots and sweet potatoes and banana and applesauce and all of that kind of stuff. I waited until I went through every single vegetable. The only fruit I could say that I started with was avocado. And, avocado is not sweet at all, so it's actually a great fruit to start with as well.

Ben:  If I could clarify that sugar piece. So, theoretically by doing that, you could almost stave off a little bit of what I guess is a big struggle now with particularly adolescence, this whole idea of dopamine desensitization and a constant dopamine rush and expectation of sweet rewards from food or smartphones or the internet or whatever? You're actually almost building in a certain amount of bitter-esque stoicism at an early age by paying attention to the way that you're training your child's palate.

Vani:  That's correct. And, one of the things that causes picky eating is actually processed foods. So, imagine a jar of Gerber food that is mixed puree and they always mix it with something sweet like banana and broccolis or sweet potato and beets or they're always taking a vegetable and then making it sweet. And, this is the case too with a lot of pouches out there. There's actually a company called Serenity Kids that has broken that mold and is making bone broth and meat-forward pouches, which is so cool.

Ben:  By the way, I was so impressed when Serenity Kids launched because they sent me some of their baby foods. You can still find a viral video of me on the internet dressed up like a baby with a giant adult diaper on eating their baby food at the table. And, it's kind of joking and kind of not because I still have their baby food pouches with lunch almost every day instead of putting dressing on my meats or my fish or my salad, whatever. I squeeze a baby food pouch from Serenity on there. But anyways, I was so impressed with them. I actually invested in that company when they launched.

Vani:  I did too. I'm an investor as well, yeah. And, it's funny is I didn't feed my kids pouches up until maybe until they were one and a half or two. I only use them very sparingly when we're on vacation or we're traveling or something like that. So, I'm not even a huge pouch person, but I was so impressed with what they were doing in terms of breaking the mold and the palate, and training a kid's palate to actually enjoy savory foods that I was just like, “I have to support this company. I think it's amazing.”

But, going back to that jarred Gerber baby food, if you're giving that to your child as one of the first foods and spoon-feeding them, not only are they getting the same flavor and taste every single time, they're not getting the variety of what a real vegetable and fruit in nature feels and taste like. Let's just take the instance of a blueberry. One day a blueberry can be really juicy. It can be sweet. It can be sour. It can be mealy. It could be big and plump. It could be small and tiny. There's so much variety in nature in terms of how we get our fruits and vegetables. But, when you're getting the same jar of baby food manufactured to taste the exact same way every single time, you're reducing the neurons that go up into your brain that make you acceptable to a wide range of flavors.

Ben:  Yeah, I don't even want to tell you, by the way, how many kids I would imagine think that carrots are all shaped like tiny little evenly rounded baby rocket ships. And, when you look at our crisper, our vegetable crisper in the fridge, our carrots are butt ugly because they're from the garden and they're just deformed and shaped in all which ways and look like they hit a Chernobyl nuclear accident but it's the way that carrots are kind of supposed to look, right?

Vani:  Absolutely. We want that variety in our bodies. And so, we want to expose our kids to that variety. And so, that's why it's so important to when you're first choosing to give your child food, I feel like it needs to be as close to nature as possible. And so, that's what I used. And, I just remember the first time my daughter was eating bok choy–at one year old, she knew the word bok choy. And, when we were at a restaurant, they had it on a menu and she was saying “bok choy, bok choy, bok choy.” And, the waiter and the waitress was like, “Are you kidding me? How does she know what this is?” And, I'm like, “Well, we grow it on our garden. We picked it. We cooked it for her with a little garlic and sea salt and olive oil. And, she loves it. She just gnaws on it and it's such a bitter complex flavor. But, because she started eating that type of food at a very early young age and we continued to feed that to her, now she could eat just about any vegetable and love it.

And, the same goes for my son. He's been a little bit more challenging, a little bit more, maybe because when you have a second child, you aren't able to as hold the boundary as much because you're so overtaxed. I mean, I think a lot of the situations in terms of how we feed our kids come from our own parent misguiding, if you will. We have the ultimate power on how to feed our kids. So, after I did vegetables, I went into interesting things that people would just, I know you would freak out about, Ben, but if I told people what I was feeding my kids, they would just be like, “What, you gave them what?” And literally, I would open up a jar of wild sardines or a little tin of wild sardines and I would just hand over those little baby fishes to my kids, and they would go to town on them.

Ben:  Yeah.

Vani:  And, not only was it the easiest food ever to give them, it's one of the healthiest because sardines are the lowest on the chain in terms of exposure to mercury and other heavy metals in the sea, but also it's one of the highest in that brain-boosting DHA, vitamin A, all the things that we want our kids to be eating.

Ben:  Yeah. Most people probably think if you tell someone you're feeding a child little fish that you mean goldfish crackers, but you were doing the actual little fish. That's fantastic. We did the same thing.

You mentioned that two of your strategies were limiting sugar with the baby food piece as far as what you fed your babies and then keeping the food as close to nature as possible. But, when I was reading in the book when you got to the part about Gerber baby food, you mentioned autolyzed yeast extract, and I think you pronounced it torula yeast, as two things that you'll find on a lot of these labels in baby food that you don't really like the idea of. Can you explain why with the autolyzed yeast extract and the yeast derivatives?

Vani:  Yeah. So, these derivatives are similar to what MSG is, monosodium glutamate. And, if you were to look at any of the studies that they do on obesity, one of the things that they give rats to make them fat so they can study obesity-related diseases and obesity-related drugs and other things is MSG or MSG compounds like autolyzed yeast extract. And so, what that does to your brain, it actually hijacks your taste buds and it makes you remember a flavor and it makes your mouth water. It makes you want to finish that meal. It makes you want to eat more than you should. It triggers a part of our brain that is the ultimate pleasure zone of food. 

And, this is why food manufacturers have figured out if they add it to their food, they will hook a customer for life. It's one of the reasons why Chick-fil-A no matter how many times I've called them out, met with them at their headquarters, talk to their executives, they won't remove MSG from their Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches because they know they will lose customers. It's the same thing in Doritos. It's in Doritos because they want you to finish the whole bag. They want you to remember that flavor. They want you to keep eating until you can't stop. Once you pop, you can't stop. I mean that was the Pringles slogan, right? And, it was added to Pringles, right?

So, this is one of the things that is now being added to baby food so that children get hooked on baby food very early and they only eat processed foods and they start to shun real food because it doesn't taste as good because their little brains are being hijacked by these chemicals.

Ben:  There's kind of a debate out there about MSG. You've probably seen it because literally if you go to the FDA's website, they write that glutamate in MSG is chemically indistinguishable from the glutamate that's naturally present in our foods and that our bodies metabolize both sources of glutamate the same way. Now, I realize most of what you just said about MSG is related to the addictive nature of it and maybe not to what some people might say about MSG related to its potential as a neurotoxin, for example. But, is the FDA right about that? Is the MSG and foods chemically indistinguishable?

Vani:  They're completely wrong. That's pseudo-science, basically, because what they're comparing a bag of Doritos to is a natural like let's say a tomato. A regular tomato actually has glutamic acid. It mimics the same glutamic acid that's in the molecule of MSG. However, the way MSG is added to food along with the other engineered components that they're adding like the natural flavor, the amount of salt, the amount of sugar, the amount of refined carbohydrates, when you combine all of that along with the MSG, you create a product that's hyperpalatable. Whereas, you would never OD on tomatoes, but you can OD on MSG because you are actually wanting to eat that whole bag after you eat it. 

And then, the worst part about it is that the way they engineer it, it actually triggers your cytotoxins in your brain so you remember the flavor. Now, when I eat a tomato, I kind of remember what it tastes like, but if I start to think about what Doritos tastes like, man, do I understand and my mouth start to water because my brain is activated in a different way than a regular tomato. They are actually creating something that's completely beyond what's in nature to the point where, I believe, it's one of the most disastrous things that have happened to processed foods because this is what has caused the obesity epidemic. It's caused children to become super picky and it's caused these situations where we're not getting the nutrients we need in our bodies and we're so sick.

Ben:  Yeah. It's not often you hear somebody who smoked a joint and goes off to hunt down a little plastic carton full of cherry tomatoes. It definitely, I think, in concentrated amounts there is a lot of that addictive potential that you talk about. You'll hear a lot of people say that it's neurotoxic, that MSG is neurotoxic. What do you think about that? Is it the same thing kind the dose is the poison, the delivery mechanism and the concentration or is MSG bad for the brain?

Vani:  I mean, the fact that it's making rats obese in laboratories, I mean, I think that says enough on its own. We're not supposed to be obese, right? We're not supposed to get fat. I mean, if you look at the way humans have evolved, we are in a situation that we've never seen before. We're almost close to half of our population out there is in the obese category and most of them I would say two-thirds of them are overweight. And, we're in a situation that's never been seen before and that's largely due to the introduction of these processed foods because we thought it was convenient and easy. But, what the processed food industry wants to do is they just want to sell us food, right? It's just capitalism at play. And so, it's really up for us to make a decision as human beings whether we want to be a part of this experiment or we want to opt out.

And Ben, I know you've opted out. I want to opt-out. I want to raise kids that have opted out. And so, every single day, I take it as an opportunity to teach my kids about why we eat the way we do and why we buy the products we do. And, when we're at the grocery store, I take my little two-year-old and we talk about the foods we're buying. And, when he picks up something even as meaningless as a potato, we check to see if it's organic or not. And then, we say, “Yeah, you can put it in the cart if it's organic and I'll tell you why.” And, we take the time to talk about, “Oh, potatoes have 67 different types of pesticides on them if they're not organic.” All of these different facts that I know that are just crazy in my head because I've spent the last 12 years of my life writing a blog on this subject, spent the last 20 of my years really delving deep into why I want to eat this way and why I find what's happening in the food industry so alarming.

So, let me just ask you this. The last time you made a burger at your house, Ben, compared to the time previous to that, do you remember exactly what it tastes like? Whereas, if you think back to the last time you ate a McDonald's hamburger or a Wendy's hamburger or a Burger King hamburger, do you remember exactly what those taste like? Because I haven't eaten a hamburger since I was 16 years old. I'm 44 now, but I remember those burgers and I know distinctly how they bury and the way they taste.

Ben:  The 29-cent hamburger, 39-cent cheeseburger, I think it was Wednesdays or Thursdays or whatever for the hamburger and then the cheeseburger. My mom would take us to McDonald's and we'd load up with several dozen burgers, and then the next day cheeseburgers and have a suburban full of greasy burger bags that we'd then stock in the fridge for the next few days of eating for me and my brothers. And yeah, I totally remember. It's hard to describe, but it's that dill pickle sweet ketchup kind of quick burst in your mouth with a little bit of the dryness of the bun, and half the time I was eating them cold, so the cold beef. And yeah, it's kind of weird that you say that. I've never really thought about it that way. You think that's because of the food engineering and the amount of glutamate derivative specifically that they would add to a burger like that?

Vani:  Yeah.

Ben:  You know what I've learned here is that I need to get MSG and start adding it to the burgers that I make for dinner parties and I would probably have way more friends.

Vani:  That's a bad idea. But yeah, they'll remember your burger. The memory part is the part that gets you because if you're going to remember that flavor, you're going to go back for more every single time. And, that's why my mouth still waters when I think of a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. And, when you think about a goldfish cracker, why, oh man, those things are so good, I just keep eating them because they're laced with this MSG additive. And, they want little kids and adults and everyone to just finish the whole bag so they keep buying more and more and more.

Ben:  What about these crunchies? I don't want this to come off a commercial for Serenity Baby Foods but they have these amazing little puffs that I also keep in my pantry even though I have no babies around and sprinkle on my lunch every once in a while for a crunch. And, you say in the book that many of us are feeding our babies Cheetos and you also have some opinionated ideas about veggie straws. So, tell me about the crunchies and what your beef is with them.

Vani:  Well, yeah. So, Gerber made these little products called Little Crunchies and they look literally like Cheetos. And, when you look at the ingredients, they're literally Cheetos for kids. They have those MSG additives, they have the corn meal that makes up the little crunchy snack and in the cheese. And so, this is exactly what they're doing in terms of they're creating a child product that has a child brand name on it, Gerber, along with kid-like marketing on it that's going to track their eyes. And, parents are going to buy these snacks thinking they're good for kids because they're marketed towards children.

Ben:  It's written right there, Cheetos for babies on the book that I'm holding up right now. And, I'm looking at the list of ingredients, Vani, for the Gerber snacks, for the baby little Crunchies, mild cheddar flavor and comparing to the Cheetos simply puffs. It's almost got more crap in it.

Vani:  Yes. It's actually worse. It's worse than the better Cheeto you can buy.

Ben:  Yeah. It is literally a worse-than-Cheeto baby version of a Cheeto. I don't think a lot of people realize that.

Vani:  That's right. And, I just think about the aisles at the grocery store that are the baby food aisles. And, there's a lot of great companies out there doing things that are better now. We named one Serenity Kids. I think SimpleMills is another great company that's doing innovative thing in the space. They just created these little puffs called Pop Mmms and they're made out of organic red bean and butternut squash. And, I think they're gluten-free. It's really amazing what they've created with those. And, there's other brands too that are actually doing the right thing by creating products that are made with real food ingredients but with kid marketing, which I love. There's a company called Sweet Nothings that's made a Otter Pop, if you will. If you remember Otter Pops, those little freezer pops in the little plastic tube, they've made those but they're using fruits and vegetables as a combination in them not just sweet fruits or from concentrate fruit juice. They're actually using the actual fruit that contains the fiber too. So, they're taking strawberry and beets and combining it along with chia and dates and putting it in a little pop. Their blueberry has kale in it. Their orange one has carrots and mango, and they have a green one that has pineapple and spinach. And, it's the coolest thing because I'm like, “Finally, there's some products that we can actually buy for our children that are fun to eat and are fun to give them as treats so they don't feel they're missing out on life.” And, it's an opportunity to actually get good nutrition in their bodies.

Ben:  So, five nights ago when I was going through your book to read it before this podcast, I was laying in bed with my wife and I'm careful about what books I read in bed. I don't want to be too exciting or too much about business, but obviously this is a cookbook with some nutrition tips thrown in. It's an easy read, the only risk being it makes you want to get up and have a midnight snack. But, page 76, related to what you were just talking about, that's gold right there. You've got all the different popular candy bars and candies and then your substitute next to them like a brand called Ocho, O-C-H-O. I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right, but they've got Ocho caramel and peanut bar instead of a Snickers or you've got Justin's Peanut Butter Cups instead of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or you've got YumEarth. I didn't even know there was such a thing as healthy candy corn. YumEarth Candy Corn instead of Brach's Candy Corn, and YumEarth licorice instead of Twizzlers or the Torie and Howard chewy fruties instead of the Starburst. I mean, the book alone is worth that one page with all the substitutes, but it is kind of cool to know that because how often, for example, on Halloween do you want to still maybe give kids a little treat or a celebration of the fall or however you celebrate that time of year but you don't want the usual. This is a pretty good list.

Vani:  Yeah. This is the type of products that I'll buy to give out for Halloween or to have during those different holiday periods where you're walking at the grocery store and you see the holiday death aisle. That's what I call it, the holiday death aisle. It's literally poison that's just distributed in fancy festive colors to bring out the nostalgia in your body. That makes you want to partake in all of their poison. And, that candy, whether it's Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, no matter when it is, it's full of artificial flavors that are carcinogens, full of artificial colors that are linked to hyperactivity in children that require a warning label in Europe that says may cause adverse effects on activity and tension in children. It causes asthma, eczema, inflammation of the brain, the lessening of your immune system. Those products contain titanium dioxide. 

Another color that's actually banned in the EU now that makes things more white or more vibrant. They have caramel coloring, which is made with heating ammonia. So, it's a very toxic substance, the International Agency for Research on Cancer says it's a carcinogen caramel color level four. And then, you have vanillin which is an artificial form of vanilla, is actually made from petrochemicals. Then, you have PGPR, which is a emulsifier that they use in cocoa butter that is very problematic along with TBHQ. And TBHQ, you'll find in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and this is something that actually turns on your immune system to the point where you become more allergic to the things that you might be allergic to or you might have a sensitivity to. It starts to create inflammation in your body. So, this is something you don't want to be eating. And then, also, a lot of these holiday poisons contain BHT, which is linked to cancer and is banned all over the globe.

So, it's the holiday death aisle, and I've coined that for several years. People think I'm outrageous and crazy that I say that, but that's what it is because it's absolutely awful how you walk into a grocery store or a fancy store like one of the big box stores and you see this amazing display of all these tasty treats and they're wrapped up in this nostalgia of a holiday. And, you want to celebrate by getting these fun-looking packages, but you can't. You can't do it because it's the death aisle.

Ben:  That's kind of funny you say that because my wife sometimes gives me the sharp elbow when we go to church and we walk past the giant table of cupcakes and store-bought pies and candies and bowls of wrapped sugar-laden goodies, and I'm like, “There's the holy diabetes channel. Great plan, go eat a bunch of sugar and then sit for two hours.” And, granted I know they're just being nice and hospitable, but it would be better if people were educated on some of these healthier choices that you talk about in the book.

One, I think in particular, let's say, Vani, I'm going through the airport and I walk through the so-called healthy food snack section of the newsstand Hudson's or whatever and I grab the Veggie Straws. Would that be healthier than just grabbing a bag of Ruffles potato chips?

Vani:  Not really. They're made with the same inflammatory high in omega-6 fatty acids. Not organic, by the way. They're made with conventional canola oil or sunflower oil that may not be expeller press so that it's extracted with hexane, which the FDA doesn't even regulate the amount of hexane that residue that remains in our food. It's a very carcinogenic compound. The high Omega 6 fatty acid oils actually are really high in linoleic acid, and that turns on cancer cells. Dr. Joseph Mercola actually just came out with the book all about that. And then, you're dealing with the potatoes that are not organic, so they have such a high level of pesticides in them. 

So, no matter if you're eating Ruffles or Veggie Straws, you're still getting that nonorganic potato. And then, on top of that, you're getting the health washing effects of the Veggie Straws, which is a dusting of powder to color these potatoes. One of the things that I've seen at Hudson News and all these little airport shops is Rhythm snacks. Now, Rhythm snacks actually takes real vegetables and dehydrates them and sells them. So, you can get dehydrated kale, dehydrated cauliflower, dehydrated broccoli. I saw asparagus. I mean, they have all kinds of different things. I mean, I love the dehydrated beet chips, the kids love those, and they have dehydrated carrot sticks. Now, those would be actual veggie straws. That's a real veggie straw.

Ben:  Right.

Vani:  But, the Veggie Straw company, no, that's not a real veggie straw.

Ben:  Rhythms organic naked carrot sticks made simply from, surprise, dehydrated carrots. And, you're right, you can find Rhythms Organics at a lot of airports or you could save yourself 5 bucks a bag and just freaking go to Amazon and get some and plant ahead and put them in your bag before you travel, up to you. But yeah, I'm glad you made that note about all the so-called dehydrated vegetables that really are the same as or when I look over the ingredient list possibly worse than Ruffles because you're going to eat more of them because of all the spinach paste. So, they might even be worse.

But, what about this? Your kids go to a birthday party, you know they're going to be surrounded by all the things and the peer pressure and you don't want to be guilty or in front of the other parents, being that person who's, whatever, taking away their Veggie Straw birthday cake. What do you do about birthdays and birthday parties?

Vani:  Well, from the beginning, I've instilled in my children kind of our modi of operations in terms of how we navigate when we go to parties in general. Whether it's a birthday party or some other kind of holiday event, you're allowed to have one treat. And, that treat needs to be artificial dye-free. And so, if there's a cake and it's full of blue coloring on top, and I know the mom hasn't bought it from Whole Foods or someplace that doesn't do food coloring, I'll let them eat the cake part. Have a small piece and have the cake part. And, they don't feel they're missing out at all and we just take off the icing. And, she's just known that since day one of birthday party since she was about 3. So, she's just automatically done that, which is so awesome because that's the only thing she knows. 

And, one of the challenges I had as a result of this is she would ask me, my daughter, she'd say, “Mom, why don't the other kids know about these chemicals? Why are they eating this stuff? Why are their parents allowing them to eat this? Or, why do they not know that this is happening?” And so, that's been a beautiful conversation starter to explaining how our values in terms of how we value health is different than other people's. And, this is going to be the case with everything they experience in life. Whether they're moral values, the value of how you study, the value of how you play sports. I mean, all of the things. It's not just in health. So, it's just a beautiful conversation on how we can talk about how we are going to be different in this world than other people and be unconventional. And, it's been a beautiful thing because now I see her making decisions on her own based on what she's learned about food.

And so, I'll give you an example. An ice cream truck came to school and we received a note from the headmaster, “Hey, we're going to have ice cream day,” and in two nanoseconds, I'm replying to that going, “Hey, I'll supply the ice cream.” And, she's like, “No, we've got it covered.” Well, it ends up being a big ice cream truck comes. And, my daughter goes and makes her decision and so, of course, I'm not there to know what's going on or anything. So, she gets home from school and she says, “Mom, I loved ice cream day.” I'm like, “Oh, really? What happened? Tell me what happened.” She's like, “Oh, this huge ice cream truck came and there was this big menu and we got to choose whatever we wanted and I think I chose the best option.” I said, “Oh, really? Well, what was that?” And, she goes, “I chose the ice cream sandwich. And Mom, the ice cream sandwich was double the size of the ones that we buy” because the organic ones are half the size, right? And, I said, “Oh, really?” And, she goes, “Yes.” And, I go, “Was it good?” She goes, “Oh, it was so good,” she goes, “but there were a lot of really brightly colored ice creams available and I thought I chose the best because it was chocolate and vanilla.” And, I'm like, “I think you did great. Well, I'm glad you made that decision. Did you enjoy it?” Like, great. And, I left it at that. And, I just kind of walked away from that conversation. I was like, “Damn, she's 6 years old thinking through this decision that she's left out on her own with and she thinks she made the best decision.” That's so cool that she made that decision based on what she's learned about food.

Well, then, my sorry ass, okay, and why I'm calling myself a sorry ass is because I can't help myself. I went and decided to google what a Good Humor ice cream sandwich has in it like a typical one because we buy the organic ones that don't have any of the junk. And, of course, they found a way to put artificial food dyes in an ice cream sandwich that is normal. So, they put caramel color level four to make the chocolate wafer. They're not using real chocolate and then they're using titanium dioxide to color the non-ice cream, that's not even real ice cream because it doesn't even melt in the sun, white. So, there was two in there and she thought she was making a better choice. And, I was so happy for her that she was able to use those critical thinking skills and figure it out, but damn, we have a lot of work to do as human beings that want to stand up for our own bodies and give ourselves the best food possible. I mean, the fact that we can get tricked this is insane.

Ben:  Well, we're in it for the long game. Not only are I think companies like, I don't know, is it Kraft that just bought Primal Kitchen Foods, and I believe General Mills has acquired a couple of healthy food brands. I think corporations are beginning to wake up to the idea that we're wanting cleaner products. And, in addition to that long game of just producing content like you produce, doing podcasts like this, et cetera, I think it all starts with the family. We use, what I would describe as very similar to your approach, love and logic approach to parenting where we educate our children about the decisions and the mechanisms and the consequences behind the options that they have, for example, at a birthday party and then we let them make the decision or at least present them with multiple choices so they feel like they've made the decision between, I don't know, the gluten-free Snickerdoodle and the vanilla ice cream cake. 

And yes, they often choose things that I wouldn't personally choose, but they know, they come home and like, “Dad, you've taught me about what gluten does to the brain or to my digestive tract when consumed in excess. I had the cupcake but I had half of it and I had a couple extra cups of water to keep me full because you've taught me about that.” And so, equipping them with the knowledge that they need to make the decisions, then the other thing, this works for adults too, by the way, newsflash, going to a party like that full or having eaten or giving your kids a good high protein snack, maybe not the little fish. You don't want your kids at the birthday party with sardine breath, but something healthy, maybe the dehydrated carrot chips or whatever with some protein. I think just having a kid not be ravenous or you be ravenous when you arrive at a social occasion or party works pretty well also.

And, I have to admit I don't know what this does to a child psychologically, it probably messes them up big time, but I have been known to tell my kids, “Hey, eat mindfully and eat good food at the birthday party and don't have a lot of sugars and sweets and I'll take you out for dinner this weekend.” And, I realize that's rewarding with food. I don't know if that's the right way to go or not, but it seems make an impact. Go out, have a good time with Dad because you did a good job passing the marshmallow test so to speak.

Vani:  Right. We want to create a lifestyle in in a community of people that enjoy food too. And so, I think it's so important. I love your tip about feeding them before a party. That's definitely something that I always do. I want to make sure they're fed with good high-quality ingredients before we leave the door because when they get there, of course, they're not going to be overly excited about what's there, they're going to be more interested in what their friends are playing with or the balloons or the decorations at the party instead or having more fun like doing the activity there as opposed to the food. But, I'll tell you the same goes for me as an adult when I'm going to a holiday party or anything in the evening or someone else's birthday or I'm going out with adults in the evening and they want to eat late, I'm still eating my dinner at 5 or 6 o'clock because I want to make sure I don't show up there wanting to eat everything imaginable just because I know that's how my schedule in terms of my body operates. And so, it makes me healthier too.

And so, one of the things that I think that is a misconception about me or the way I live is that it's a very life of deprivation that I don't get to eat anything delicious or that's sweet or fun. And, that's not the case.

Ben:  You're the female Bryan Johnson biohacker except with little kids.

Vani:  But, yeah. As long as the food is made with real food ingredients, if it's a real food cupcake, I'm going to eat it. I think it's delicious. And, we have dessert every single day at my household, and people would be like, “What? You have dessert every single day?” “Yes, but it's a dessert that is made with real ingredients.” We had these cookies that we just made out of a turkey mold and they were made with ink corn all-purpose flour, really good ancient wheat, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed butter. Yes, they had a little bit of coconut sugar in it, but then they had real vanilla in it and lemon. I mean, it was just a great cookie. It was just like you wouldn't be able to find that cookie anywhere at the grocery store. But, because we made it with such good high-quality ingredients, they had one each and that was it and you're full after that. But, if you make a cookie with processed ingredients or you buy a cookie that's already been made and created so that you eat more than you should, you're going to eat many more and then you're going to have an abundance of sugar in your diet.

The other thing I want to mention is that if there is a party where we go to and nothing is suitable to eat and I'm so horrified, a lot of times I whisper into my kids' ears, “Hey, guys, in my purse I've got YumEarth or Justin's or Ocho candies available if you'd like to try that instead,” or “Hey, why don't we stop at this other donut shop that I love that I know that makes better donuts for you in coconut oil and we'll stop and get a donut instead?” I would rather do that than watch them eat a bunch of poisonous food.

Ben:  Yeah. I totally agree. And, I don't force things on them. I don't want to produce kids with orthorexia or eating disorders, but even just the other day we are at a tennis tournament all day and I noticed my son Terran mow down four of those Nature's whatever granola bars from Costco and some kind of crappy sandwich they had chipped in for the tournament. And, when we were driving home at the end of the day, I was pretty subtle about it but I just said, “Hey, dude, I'm out there on the front lines teaching people about the kind of food that's super nutritious and wholesome and staves off onset of chronic disease and it feels kind of weird for me for my son to be eating all those things that I'm telling people they'd be better served not to eat. And, I know you know better and have better options, so do you think you just think about that more in the future when we have more tennis tournaments.” And, he was like, “Yeah, yeah, you're right. You're right.” And, we actually had a tennis tournament this past weekend, he did a great job, he packed Pemmican and one of these little keto chocolate bars that I have and brought his own food. And so, sometimes it's just a simple discussion like that. And again, you want them to feel as though they're being educated and able to make responsible decisions for themselves. It's never forbidden fruit or no or slapping their hand away from the Tootsie Roll or whatever.

Vani:  Right.

Ben:  Yeah.

Vani:  Absolutely. There's no punishments around it. It's more of, “Hey, this is our values, this is what the information is. This is the truth about the food that you're about to eat.” And, that's one of the things that I feel like there's this–and, I think some of these registered dietitians are actually paid by the food industry to propagate this kind of situation in terms of saying that if we tell our kids the truth about food, then they're going to turn into eating disorder. I don't think that's the case because I think the more information you know about food, the stronger and smarter you'll be in terms of creating a health that is actually in terms of creating a body that's actually healthy. I can only imagine what would have happened had I known this information growing up, what kind of decisions I would have made. I would have made a lot different decisions and I would have probably not had ended up in the hospital taking my appendix out. They say that your appendix, you don't need it, it's just this useless organ. Well, that's just not the case.

Ben:  Yeah.

Vani:  Your appendix is actually something that you can use. It populates your gut with good bacteria and helps your immune system. And now, I don't have one because of the way that I was eating. It became inflamed because I was eating inflammatory foods. And so, that's a long-lasting impact on my body for the rest of my life not having that organ. And, that's a decision that I wish I didn't have to make at that age when I was 22 years old. And, I don't want my kids to ever have to suffer like that.

Ben:  Yeah. And, I wouldn't want any parent listening to feel regret or shame necessarily, I would just say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago or today. Be armed with this information, go make the change that you can make. And, if your kid is a little older, it'll be information that rubs off on your grandkids.

And, by the way, I mentioned Bryan Johnson, the biohacker guy who runs that popular blueprint protocol in which he eats a relatively maybe not a bland diet but the same thing day in day out, and I should say I actually am very similar. I love my smoothie. I love my lunchtime like Miracle Noodles with sardines and Primal Kitchen Dressing. I love my ribeye or fish or chicken with dinner and roasted vegetables. It's almost the same every day all the way down to dessert. It almost seems like yogurt and almond butter with dark chocolate chunks, and I love it and I can do that every single night. I'm a total creature of habit. And, I think that if that helps people, I mean, and you're probably aware with that research, Vani, that limiting food choices and having your meals planned out in advance helps a ton whether you're planning for the whole family or for yourself. So, I would imagine you probably do a little bit of meal planning with your kids too, yeah?

Vani:  Oh, absolutely. That's a critical part of my entire operation here in terms of “Food Babe Family,” my cookbook, it has 100 recipes in it, but majority of them you can make under 30 minutes. And, a lot of them I'm making on repeat. Every Tuesday, for example, we're doing fajitas. And then, on Wednesdays, we use the leftovers to make the quesadillas. And so, we have these certain days, we have salmon every single week on a certain day and I have the salmon recipe in there. And so, I have different ways to make salmon too, but the kids know that we're having salmon at least once a week. And so, I have kind of my meal planning worked out for me so that we know what we're having. Otherwise, I would fail. I would fail at this. It would be 5 o'clock and I would be looking at my fridge and I would be like, “Oh, I don't want to start cooking from scratch right now and I would end up having to order out or something like that.” And, we have to be in a situation where we're prepared so that we're not always outsourcing our food to other people because as soon as we outsource our food to other people, that's when all the additives start to enter our bodies and the inflammatory oils that they use at restaurants, 99% of the restaurants out there. And so, we really need to control the ingredients that we're putting in our body.

Ben:  Yeah. And, should any of you think this is just more sardines from mommy's purse, homemade Oreos, copycat toaster strudel, and oatmeal cream pie cookies, I mean, it actually is. I was reading some of the recipes to my wife again because I was just reading it in bed and she was on board even though I'll one up your fajita Tuesdays, Vani, because we do tongue taco Tuesdays with a crock potted beef tongue, which is I think the best taco meat out there. Maybe you could say that fish is pretty good for tacos too, but tongue tacos with a little hot sauce, it's pretty good.

Vani, this is fantastic. The book is great. And, the shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/FoodBabeFamily. Where's the best place for people to grab quick up-to-date bites from you, Vani? Is it Instagram or your blog or podcast or where?

Vani:  Yeah. You can come on over to Instagram, @theFoodBabe, or you can go to my blog, FoodBabe.com. Sign up for a newsletter and I send out a newsletter every single week with new blog posts, what's going on, the podcast that I do, everything along with my new books. And Ben, I just really appreciate you having me on today. I really have enjoyed talking with you and catching up. I hope we get to see each other in person sometime because I would love to meet your kids. They look amazing, by the way, and they're fascinating. I've been kind of following online, some of the things you guys are doing and it's really cool.

Ben:  They're good guys. We should go to a birthday party together sometime or maybe go eat out at the airport. We'll find some time. Yeah, that'd be a fun video. Me shopping with The Food Babe.

Alright. Well, thanks so much, Vani. It's a great book. I'll hold it up again for people who want to get this book, “Food Babe Family.” Just have to have a family to benefit from this one. Lots of great recipe substitutes, meal substitutes, snack substitutes, and boots on the ground tips from Vani Hari, the Food Babe. So, until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield along with Vani Hari signing out from BenGreenfieldLife.com. Have an amazing week.

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How do you feed your family the right way in a world full of crap that could be killing your kids?

I can't think of a better person to answer this question than this week's guest, Vani Hari, aka “The Food Babe.” She's a revolutionary food activist, a New York Times best-selling author, co-founder of the organic food brand Truvani, and was named one of the “Most Influential People on the Internet” by TIME magazine. She also joined me many years ago for the podcast episode “‘The Food Babe' Says They’re Feeding You Lies (How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health).”

Hari started FoodBabe.com to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world.

Her new book Food Babe Family inspires you with over 100 recipes and everything you need to feed your family in a way that will foster a love for REAL food for life.

The fact is, the multimillion-dollar food industry has used its vast resources to target parents, convincing them that it’s difficult to feed their children good food. But here’s the truth: parenting is difficult, but feeding your children simple, healthy, real food shouldn’t be.

In Food Babe Family, Vani dispels popular myths about feeding your kids, offers more than 100 delicious recipes that make it simple to put healthy, real food on the table, and helps parents start children on a lifelong path of making good food choices.

From Pumpkin Muffins to Taco Salad Cups, Zucchini Pizza Bites, “Chick-fil-A” Chicken Nuggets and Waffle Fries, and even Homemade “Oreos,” Food Babe Family proves it’s not only possible but fun to eat real food without artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and other nasty ingredients.

The book Food Babe Family includes tips and tricks, such as how to:

  • Navigate the food in schools and daycares
  • Deal with “picky eaters”
  • Make mealtime fun for kids without processed foods
  • Eat hassle-free and healthfully at restaurants
  • And more!

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-Who is Vani Hari?…05:05

-How should you choose your breakfast oats?…07:24

  • Vani has two kids
  • Breakfast she serves to her kids
  • One Degree Oats
  • Right before harvest, oat is sprayed down with Roundup to kill all the weeds
    • The same goes for wheat
  • Choose glyphosate-free oats; look for certified glyphosate-free label
  • Glyphosate can disrupt nutrient absorption
  • Steel-cut oats are digested slower and make you feel full longer
  • Dr. Cowan's Garden vegetable powders (use code BEN to save 15% off the vegetable powders)

-How did Vani feed her children when they were babies?…11:56

-What is the importance of providing a variety of food?…17:20

  • The first baby food has to be as close to nature as possible
  • Vani’s daughter ate bok choy as a 1-year-old
  • Now, she eats every vegetable
  • Her son was a bit more challenging
  • Feeding kids with wild sardines
    • The benefits of sardines

-What are the dangers of MSG?…20:27

  • Autolyzed yeast extract and yeast derivatives
  • Derivatives that are similar to MSG — monosodium glutamate
  • Studies on obesity
    • Rats are given MSG compounds like autolyzed yeast extract
  • It hijacks your taste buds
  • It makes you want to eat more than you should
  • Manufacturers add it to their food to hook a customer for life
  • MSG controversy
  • Is glutamate in MSG the same as the one your body produces?
  • You can OD on artificial MSG
  • It triggers toxins in your brain so you remember the flavor
  • MSG is responsible for obesity epidemics, picky eaters, and lack of nutrients in the body
  • Is MSG neurotoxic?
  • The introduction of processed foods has produced an overweight and obese population
  • Opt out of the processed food industry experiment

-Are there any good snacks for kids?…33:50

  • Gerber’s Lil' Crunchies are not good
    • They're like Cheetos for kids, but worse
  • Some companies are trying to make products with real food ingredients
  • Vani's book Food Babe Family has substitutes for popular snacks 
  • Artificial flavors that are carcinogens
  • Artificial colors cause ADD, asthma, eczema, inflammation of the brain, and the lessening of your immune system.
  • Other problematic artificial ingredients in processed foods:
    • Titanium dioxide
    • Caramel coloring
    • Vanillin
    • PGPR
    • TBHQ (Tertiary butylhydroquinone)
    • BHT

-Are Veggie Straws healthier than Ruffles Potato Chips?…42:08

  • They are both made with conventional canola oil or sunflower oil extracted with hexane — a very carcinogenic compound
  • Both are high in omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid
  • Non-organic potatoes are full of pesticides
  • Veggie Straw company doesn’t produce real veggie straws
  • Rhythm snacks provides real dehydrated veggies

-What should you do about food at birthday parties?…44:50

  • Vani’s kids are allowed one treat without artificial colors
  • She explains to them that they value health differently than other people
  • Her daughter now makes her own decisions
  • Ice Cream Sandwich ingredients include caramel coloring
  • Corporations are beginning to wake up to the idea that we want cleaner products
  • Educating children and teaching them to make good decisions
  • Feeding kids before a party
  • Making your own cookies with high-quality ingredients
  • Ben’s experience with his sons
    • Bringing their own snacks
  • The appendix gets inflamed because of eating inflammatory foods
  • Podcast with Bryan Johnson:

-What does Vani’s meal planning consist of?…58:55

  • Ben is a creature of habit; doesn’t mind eating the same food every day
  • Limiting food choices and meal planning helps a lot
  • Vani is always prepared and has a lot of recipes in her book, Food Babe Family
  • Where can people find Vani?

-And much more…

Upcoming Events:

  • Unlock Longevity: February 24, 2024

Join me in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, February 24, 2024, for the Unlock Longevity event where I'll be presenting on “The 5 Elements in Your Environment That Will Make or Break Your Health.” Check out more by going to bengreenfieldlife.com/unlock-longevity (use code Greenfield10 for $10 off your ticket).

Resources from this episode:

– Vani Hari:

– Podcasts And Articles:

– Other Resources:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Vani Hari or me? Leave your comments below, and one of us will reply!

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