What the Fork Are You Eating?

From the Show: Naturally Savvy
Summary: Despite your efforts, it can be difficult to wrap your brain around truly healthy eating when marketing tactics are so adept at fooling you with "faux" health foods.
Air Date: 3/11/15
Duration: 10
Host: Andrea Donsky, RHN and Lisa Davis, MPH
Guest Bio: Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS
Stefanie-SacksStefanie Sacks, MS, CNS is the author of the new release What the Fork Are You Eating? (Tarcher). A culinary nutrition specialist as well as a certified chef with a master's of science in nutrition from Columbia University, Sacks has been studying food and health for over 20 years. The host of Hampton NPR's Stirring the Pot radio show, she is truly passionate about promoting sustainable practices and wellness through food.
  • Book Title: What the Fork Are You Eating?
  • Guest Twitter Account: @Stefanie_Sacks
What the Fork Are You Eating?
If you're ready to begin changing your eating habits for the better, one thing to keep in mind is that everyone has a different starting point.

Even if you think you're eating fairly healthy, it can be difficult to wrap your brain around truly healthy eating; especially when the marketing tactics of food manufacturers and the Food Industry as a whole are so adept at fooling you with "faux" healthy foods.

Special guest of Naturally Savvy, Stefanie Sacks, wrote her book, What the Fork Are You Eating, to help address some of those challenges by exposing food fraud and also offering viable solutions. She focuses on giving people the tools and knowledge to make changes in their food-buying habits.

Stefanie says, "I don't care what you eat, as long as you do it from a place of knowledge." She doesn't want you to feel bad about what you can't do, but with knowledge, the goal is to get you to feel good about what you CAN do in terms of eating healthier. 

And, Stefanie also wants people to know that healthy eating isn't just about losing weight or feeling well. Nutrition plays such an integral role in disease prevention and disease management.

What are some of the biggest "no-no" foods to avoid?

Anything that contains GMOs, artificial colors, artificial flavors, trans fats, chemical preservatives, an overuse of antibiotics and hormones, and pesticide residues all make Stefanie's hit list.

At the same time (especially if you have kids), try not to be too militant. Your kids will go to birthday parties and the movies with their friends. They might have birthday cake with frosting colored by artificial food coloring. But, if 70-80 percent of the time you can eat whole, real foods, you're doing just fine. 

Remember, small changes in everyday food choices can make big differences. 

Listen in as Stefanie shares more about what's going on in the Food Industry, as well as simple tips for making healthier choices for you and your family.

RadioMD Presents: Naturally Savvy | Original Air Date: March 11, 2015
Hosts: Andrea Donsky, RHN & Lisa Davis
Guest: Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS

LISA: What the fork are you eating? Yeah, you heard me right. I said, "What the fork are you eating?" That is the wonderful book by our guest, Stefanie Sacks, who joins us now. 

Hi, Stefanie. 


LISA: It's so great to have you on. This book is so great and I have to say, that title is brilliant. Obviously, I love to say it. I've already said it twice.

STEFANIE: I know. A lot of people love to say the title. Even my children.

LISA: And, they can get away with it, right?

STEFANIE: They actually can, believe it or not.

LISA: Oh, my goodness. So, what the fork are we eating? I mean, apparently, a lot of things that are really not very good for us and sometimes even the things that they say are good for us can be deceiving. So, jump into both ends of this.

STEFANIE: Yes. Well, I think where I'd like to actually start this conversation is that everybody has a different starting point and the key to this book is that nutrition mavens and neophytes can grab something from it to understand sort of the truth about our food. The reality is that we've been duped for decades beyond decades by our food industry and we've bought into marketing and not real health. So, what I try to do in this book is really unfold some of the things that are in our food or being done to our food that are not great. What they are; why they're bad and the better alternatives because I'm am about solutions. You know? I 'm tired of talking about all the problems and putting Band-Aids on the problems. I want to give people the tools to really be able to help themselves without fear mongering; without blowing people up or blowing companies up. I really just want to give people knowledge because, in the end, and I've said this many times before, I don't care what somebody chooses to eat, I just want you to do it from a place of knowledge rather than from a place of not understanding what you're doing.

ANDREA: We're with you totally. I mean, that's really what Naturally Savvy's all about. We're about the solution, so I love that you say that. I mean, we wrote a book called Unjunk Your Junk Food. I mean, it's a matter of saying, "What's good? What's not? What can we eat?"

STEFANIE: I love your book.

ANDREA: Thank you. 

STEFANIE: I absolutely love it.

LISA: Isn't her book great?

STEFANIE: I loved your book and I bought that book a while back and I have to say it is such a useful book and the reason why is, I don't want to preach to people, "Don't ever do this. Don't ever do that." Just give me a savior. If you're going to do it, know what you're doing and why you're doing.

ANDREA: I appreciate that.

STEFANIE: Yes. And, if the woman I see at my son's hockey game wants to pour red Gatorade into her screaming 18-month-old's bottle, by all means do it. Just please know why you're doing it and know what's in that beverage before you give your already hyperactive child something that causes hyperactivity.

ANDREA: And let them know that they don't have to necessarily use Gatorade, but there are so many things that are options that don't have the food coloring and don't have all those other ingredients, right?

STEFANIE: Exactly. Exactly.

ANDREA: I love it.

STEFANIE: And, it's all about the "better for you" alternative.


STEFANIE: So, it's not making people feel bad about what they can't do. It hopefully makes somebody feel good about what they can do because for years, being in the trenches working with people in their homes, in groups, seeing what people are up against, whether they live in low-income communities or their finances are for celebrities, it's everybody's dealing with the same thing. You're on an even playing field as far as I'm concerned, when you're dealing with illness and you come to me for help. I see, first line problem: what do you do when you get diagnosed with cancer or like you had earlier on the show, with candida or with food allergies or with gastrointestinal problems? What do you do when you get diagnosed and there is no silver bullet; there is no magic pill. It's actually the beginning of a new type of education and a new type of living and I have to meet people where they're at.

ANDREA: It's so true. You know what? It's so true because if you don't, they're not going to listen to you anyway. So, really, you've got to talk to them where they're at in terms of like exactly what you just said. Don't overwhelm them. Once they get overwhelmed, you've lost them. So, the key is, you really want to get them in with tips, these easy things that they can really say, "This is easy. I can do this." So, what I'd like to know, Stefanie, let's talk about first, what are some of your big "no no's" of like, you know what? "I'm never giving my child these." And then what are some tips that you can help people to help them make those better choices?

STEFANIE: Okay, the first thing I like to start out by saying, there really are no forbidden foods even though I never give my kids certain things. My kids go to birthday parties and they get to eat what the other kids eat. My kids do go to the movies and if they want sweet tarts, they can have sweet tarts. I try not to be too militant because I think, in the end, what you do is create sort of an orthorexic situation which is, "Are we clean eating our way to illness?" So, what I try to do is approach it, you know 70-80% of the time, if you can eat whole foods, real foods, you're doing a great job. For me, the constant conversation points in our house are typically the food dyes which there's so much research out there that is really talking about the ill effects of food dyes. They have to be labeled on foods in Europe and not in this country. They have to have a warning label in Europe. So, it's just quite interesting that our country is so loose on food regulations. Genetic modification is another one. I just don't think we know enough about it. I think we've been a science experiment for biotech for decades without knowing it. I think artificial sweeteners are really scary also. I mean, very, very scary.

ANDREA: I would concur.

STEFANIE: So, if you're going to take…Out of my top then, if you are going to take what are the worst? I would say, artificial colors, genetic modification. I think my top ten isn't really my top ten.

ANDREA: You don't want to boil down to that.

STEFANIE: Trans fats, artificial flavors. Chemical preservation. I think there are some really scary chemical preservatives out there like DHT, PBHQ, GMOs. I think the overuse of antibiotics is scary. The overuse of hormones is scary. I think chemical pesticide residues, to a certain extent, can be pretty scary, but there are ways to navigate all of this and that's why I like to look at and live in sort of in this hopeful area where, if you understand the tools that are out there. So, for navigating pesticides, for example, download the Environmental Working Groups Pesticides in Produce or the Dirty Dozen and you can navigate how you can limit pesticide residues in your diet and your kids' diet. That's a great starting point. To understand labels on animal foods, most specifically. There's a great app called Labels Exposed by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). That's a great option also. Also, Food Source Database by the Environmental Working Groups is another wonderful app. You can download, you can photo the barcode in of any food and you can learn about ingredients, nutrition and processing about this food. 

LISA: Oh, that is so cool.

STEFANIE: Yes. So, what I like to tell people is, "Start to get an edible education." I just did a TED talk. A TEDx talk on this particular topic. How small changes in food choice can make big, every day differences and rather than trying to go and revamp everything, pick one or two things. If your kids are regularly drinking Gatorade and other types of sports drinks or these "energy bars" or power bars, start from a place and look for a better alternative.

ANDREA: Exactly. Baby steps, right?

STEFANIE: One thing.

ANDREA: Go on.

LISA: Oh, I was going to say like in Unjunk Your Junk Food. You can get tons of information. Alright. The book is What the Fork are You Eating? Stefanie Sacks, tell us where we can get the book and how we can learn more about you.

STEFANIE: Oh, gosh. Well, you can get book on Amazon and Barns and Noble, Indiebooks. Wherever books are sold. Obviously, book stores. You can learn more about me at StefanieSacks.com. You can sign up for my blog. I have a radio show called Stirring the Pot on NPR affiliate WPBB.

ANDREA: Very cool.

LISA: Oh, that's awesome. Well, I want to thank you so much. Everyone, thanks for listening. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @YourRadioMD and @Naturally Savvy.

Have a great day and stay well.