Anti-Cancer Club had the opportunity to sit and talk with Stefanie Sacks, author of What the Fork Are You Eating?: An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate, and we found ourselves on the receiving end of an actionable, sustainable edible education.
Stefanie is a chef first and a proud graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute of Health and Culinary Arts. She holds her Masters of Science in Nutrition Education from Columbia University; she is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, and a Certified Dietician Nutritionist. Stefanie is also a want-to-be-gardener though she openly admits that she cooks much better than she could ever hope to grow anything edible, so she leaves that to her 10 year old.
So why this path for her life? Her interest in food began early in her life at age 3; she simply loved to cook. As a child, Stefanie suffered from asthma, terrible allergies, recurring bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia. Medications did nothing to resolve the underlying issue. She continued to worsen rather than improve.
At 15, she took a job at a local health food cafe. This experience proved to be the beginning of the end for her. She picked up Food and Healing by the late Annemarie Colbin, PhD, founder of Stefanie’s culinary alma mater. Thankfully, she began to realize that everything we put into our bodies has an impact on our health and the environment. Stefanie feverishly studied every book on food and health that she could from cookbooks to those written medical professionals who were slowly catching on to the import of the role of food and toxins on health and the environment.
Stefanie became her own guinea pig trying every food theory and fad diet in an attempt to get healthy and stay healthy. Through this process, she gained a deeper understanding of how our food is produced and delivered to our plates, the co-mingling of industry and governmental forces and how both were making us sick and we didn’t even know it. Having been touched by many authentic thought leaders throughout her education, Stefanie knew she had to join the ‘fight’ to equip others to be their own health advocates. Her graduate thesis was entitled, “Why Cooking Is A Critical Component of Nutritional Education.” She argued that if we use the shopping and cooking experiences as the centerpiece of education, then we will accomplish sustainable changes in human and environmental health. So, here she is today.
When asked about whether or not she has seen a paradigm shift in the way consumers are eating, Stefanie replied that she’s not sure she would call it a paradigm shift although there is some degree of a shift occurring. She speaks of a ‘food and health echo chamber’ where many live believing that they are, in fact, changing the way they eat. In reality, however, their changes are based on wrong information which is what drove Stefanie to write What the Fork are We Eating?.
Throughout the book, she encourages readers to get an edible education from honest sources and to eat real food. When, and only when, those two things happens will we see a REAL paradigm shift.
The book focuses on small, actionable steps individuals can take to bring about sustainable change in their lifestyle. When asked to describe what those ‘small steps’ might look like, Stefanie provided three examples:
- Know that the ingredient list tells the story of your food NOT the nutritional facts (i.e. the longer the list, the more processed the food AND if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you shouldn’t eat it).
- AVOID any and all things artificial from chemical preservatives to flavors, colors, and sweeteners; today, anything ‘evil’ has a ‘not-so-evil’ twin.
- Become a skeptical shopper and don’t buy into all the hype printed on food packaging.*
*It’s best to shop with the What the Fork Book as a guide as Stefanie goes through the label lingo quite thoroughly.
When asked to comment on locally sourced food and tips one should know before hitting their local farmer’s Market, Stefanie gave a few things to consider:
- Be sure that your farmer is ACTUALLY growing the food
- If you can buy local organic, great! If you can’t, then just go local as it will have more nutrition that your grocery store counterpart and you will be supporting your local food economy (VERY important).
- If you are hell bent on organic, look for the Certified Naturally Grown label at the farmer’s markets. This seal verifies that your food is actually organic and you farmer is not just using ‘organic’ as a buzz word.
Stefanie has discussed the true ‘farm to table’ concept on her podcast ‘Stirring the Pot’ as being introduced by Alice Waters many years ago with Chez Panisse. Stefanie defines ‘farm to table’ as a restaurant that uses primarily locally sourced ingredients with human and environmental health in mind. Buyer beware this term has become overused and misused for marketing purposes to draw people in.
Lastly, Stefanie encourages her readers to know and question the story of each food they eat knowing that it impacts health, wellbeing, and the environment. Make choices rooted in knowledge not ignorance. Your choices will then make the sustainable difference we need in this world. It all begins with you and your family.
Join me in the kitchen with Stefanie Sacks from Montauk, NY on 6/28/2016 at 2pm ET.
Click here to visit Stefanie’s website.