Dear Food Babe

About three years ago my friend Kris introduced me to The Food Babe. We were at an event for work where they were giving out Happy Meals to the little kids and Kris started telling me about just how nasty the McDonalds fries are. Now we all know McDonald's is greasy and processed fast food, but what got my attention was when she mentioned that even the oil being used to fry the food is a big red flag. As an avid “eggs for breakfast” gal, I used canola oil almost every morning, yet I had never stopped to think about where this “heart healthy” oil was coming from and what was going into producing it. Kris peaked my interest when she mentioned that there is a lady named Vani Hari, also known as The Food Babe, who investigates how foods are that are labeled as “heart healthy” (like canola oil) “fat free,” “sugar free,” “organic” etc make their way onto the grocery store shelves. I went home that night and researched this food investigator to figure out if she was just another blogger who is passionate about the foods she eats, or if there is solid proof to back up her claims.

One of the first things I read on Vani’s website was about GMOs. I had heard them only through word of mouth so I began to educate myself on Genetically Modified Organisms through her website and others like The Non GMO Project. I found that the United States and Canada are the only developed countries in the world that do not require the food industry to label GMOs. According to The Non GMO Project, this decision is based off of studies conducted and/or paid for by the “same corporations that create [GMO foods] and profit from their sale.” Immediately the movie “Thank You for Smoking” popped into my mind - Are we really going to let history repeat itself like when tobacco companies put out studies swearing that cigarettes did not cause lung diseases and people believed them? This immediately got my blood boiling. I am a strong believer that as consumers we are lied to through the media, politics, and anyone trying to make a buck. As a society I believe we are running towards George Orwell’s 1984 as we become complacent with doing whatever we are told to do, and we believe everything we read instead of thinking for ourselves and digging a little bit deeper in order to live a conscious lives. 

Not to go off on a politics bunny trail, but as my research on just GMOs continued I found that small farmers are suffering financially from the production of GMO foods because they cannot compete with the products that large biotechnological farms are putting out. Not only that, but the large farms that are taking over production of fruits and vegetables are able to obtain patents from the government to restrict the small time farmer from using GMOs - making it possible for the government backed producers to turn around and sue the little guys if they so much as try competing. 

I had always heard GMOs were bad, but it wasn’t until this day that I realized how many pesticides and genetically engineered foods my family and I were consuming each and everyday without even knowing it.

Over the last three years I have started paying a lot more attention to ingredients at the grocery store and trying to make sure that we eat as many meals as we could at home. I’ve said goodbye to lots of my favorite foods and snacks - Kashi bars for example, which one would think of as healthy, are packed with genetically modified substances. In particular I’ve learned to look out for ingredients like aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vinegar, yeast products. I’ve learned that even though you can buy meat or chicken labeled “organic” on the packaging, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the animals weren’t fed GMO grains. I've learned just how important it is to do research the companies you are buying from rather than blindly putting items in your cart at the store.

Almost a year ago I was introduced in depth to the world of Ayurveda, and it could not have come at a better time. I was already in a decent routine of mindful grocery shopping, but Ayurveda really helped me focus on food on a deeper level. For those of you who are not familiar with Ayurveda, it is the ancient science of life in traditional Hindu practices covering everything from the foods we consume to our daily routines based off of an individuals personal composition, or dosha. The more I learned about Ayurveda the more I realized that I could heal my body from things like breakouts, migranes, allergies and cramps without ever taking medicine. Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars a year based on the fact that we rely so heavily on things like Tylenol or Advil to make us feel better, without stopping to think about the short term and long term side effects of these medicines. The reality is that we can heal ourselves through a healthy diet, practicing yoga, establishing a daily routine and practicing breathing exercises to help us really understand our bodies. 

Quinoa with Steamed Veggies

Quinoa with Steamed Veggies

Getting to the point of eating clean 100% of the time is not easy, and I’m the first to admit I indulge in the occasional bag of Mexican chips (the spicier the better which is horrible for me!) or nasty Mexican candy. In no way do I follow every single dietary rule of Ayurveda, but I found comfort in one of the teachings that was repeated to us during our Spring Cleanse - if something causes you stress, it is not beneficial. Which is where my message to The Food Babe finally comes in:

Dear Food Babe,

While I deeply appreciate all of the eye opening information that you have provided me over the past few years, it is time that take a step back in our relationship. It’s not you, it's me.

You recently published an article about Trader Joe’s on your blog that left me scared to eat. I do about 70% of my family grocery shopping at TJ’s and have found a great routine with their store, products and even their recipes. I have grown to trust them and their brand, but after reading your article I realized that they are not so willing to disclose what GMOs they are using in their packaged products, making them just like every other producer I avidly avoid. “Trader Joe’s stated that their products “don’t allow for auditing using the Non-GMO Project because there is an additional cost associated with that.” A representative from Trader Joe’s went on to say, “We tend to not label our products a whole lot, and won’t until there is a government regulation to understand what non-GMO even means, we aren’t going to label products that don’t have specific FDA guidelines.” This was disheartening to read and left me feeling confused about what to do for food.  Is only thing we can safely consume in our society water? Even that is questionable depending on the source!

Before panic ensued I thought back to my Ayurvedic teachings and remembered how important it is for us to not do things that cause us stress. Before reading your Trader Joe’s article I greatly enjoyed going to the grocery store and spending time planning our weekly meals based off of what is fresh and in season. I came to realize that you are not in fact a nutritionist but someone who is interested in uncovering the truth about the food industry in the United States (which is way more than I’m doing as I sit here critiquing your research). However, I am choosing to read the investigations that you publish consciously rather than passionately getting behind everything that you say because we may otherwise wilt away into nothingness in the Luce household.

I hope that in the near future your advocacy for revealing the truth will continue to impact the food industry and I stand beside you and The Non GMO Project's efforts to require companies to label GMOs in our food. We have a right to know what it is we are paying for and consuming after all! In the mean time I will continue to purchase fruits and veggies at TJ’s and make sure I am washing the pesticides off throughly before consuming; I will continue to purchase meat and dairy products that are grass fed, shopping at local farmer’s markets when I can; I won’t feel bad about eating the occasional bowl of Frosted Flakes or eating out at restaurants from time to time, and I won’t freak out each time our future baby boy eats a gummy bear with artificial coloring or eats a bag of chips.

You are about as far along in your first pregnancy as I am and I have tried some of the healthy pregnancy recipes you suggested, but some of the ingredients in the recipes are just too difficult to find. For example, I could only find strained tomatoes from your Pasta Free Veggie Lasagna online through the link you provided - which left me wondering if and how much you’re profiting on these recipe suggestions. I consider myself a thorough grocery shopper and shopping for food needs to be enjoyable for me as it is one of the simple pleasures I get in life. Going on a wild goose chase for one or two ingredients every week is just adding stress to my weekly routine.

With time and with more and more people being aware of the issues that companies like Monsanto want to hide from consumers, I know my family’s eating habits will continue to evolve - but for now this is what I can do.

Thank you again for persistence and passion.

xo, 

Mariajose Luce

I encourage those that are reading this blog entry to set an intention for yourselves when it comes to your eating habits. Practice getting into a more mindful routine of your own, making one small change to improve the health of your body. Remember that each day is another opportunity for us to practice living consciously and to connect with our truest and deepest selves. 

I started out by replacing my canola oil with ghee for our scrambled eggs, and that has made all the difference in the world!

For more information contact me via email at getluceyoga@gmail.com.

This is a very important practice. Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.
— ~Thich Nhat Hanh