New Book–The Food Babe Way–Can Help Those with Food Allergies

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list last week. This says a lot about how our country feels about the food industry. If you haven’t heard about Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, you will.  She’s the lady who decided several years ago that she was sick and tired–literally–from eating crappy food, so she took on the momentous task of telling food companies to stop contaminating our food with chemicals and additives. With the help of millions of like-minded folks–which she calls the Food Babe Army–and in less than three years (three years!) she’s succeeded in getting companies like Chipotle and Kraft and Subway to eliminate controversial ingredients and be more transparent in labeling.

Vani Hari Grocery Store - Credit Kwaku Alston

I began following the Food Babe on social media and joined her activist army soon after I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and celiac disease. I didn’t need a PhD in nutrition to figure out if my body was rejecting food, there must be something wrong with the food I was eating. Vani Hari’s blog shed light on the toxins I’d been unwittingly putting into my body for decades. Add these to the multiple rounds of antibiotics and painkillers I consumed for several years for a chronic health problem, it’s no wonder my gut sprang a leak. More importantly, Hari’s blog taught me what I should eat.

When her book came out this month, I was slightly worried that it would be another diet book by someone who was probably always slender. I mean she’s called the Food Babe and she is tall and thin and beautiful as the book cover clearly shows. Watch this video and you’ll see she struggled with weight like most of us. She is also smart–and a bit sassy which I like. Within the first few pages, I was underlining facts and figures, jotting down notes, and starting her 21-day program. Warning: Your significant other will not appreciate being told the same chemical used to make Silly Putty is most likely in the fastfood French fries he’s popping into his mouth.

About halfway through the book, I experienced an epiphany. Many of the good food and good habits that Hari outlines, I was already doing–because of my celiac and allergies! My body had rejected soy and corn and gluten and dairy, so I no longer eat GMO-infested processed foods. I eat organic as much as I can. I buy additive-free and antibiotic-free meats and wild fish. I cut back on soda and alcohol. I don’t eat fastfood.

The Food Babe Way

I often tell people the positive side of my celiac and food allergies is that I eat better foods and I cook more. But what if I’d done this long ago? In my teens and twenties, I thought the low-fat food I ate and the diet soda I drank were good for me; now I know I was swallowing fistfuls of chemicals and additives. When I was a tired mother, I was convinced it was faster to feed my family Taco Bell between hockey practices than make a homemade meal. When I went out to restaurants, I never questioned what was in the food I ordered. I snacked on whatever was available in airports and hotels.

All of these bad habits and bad food choices resulted in serious health consequences. I believe if I’d followed the 21-steps in The Food Babe Way in my younger days, I wouldn’t be facing the health issues I am today.  Of course, it’s never too late for any of us to make changes in our dietary habit and to start letting the suppliers of our food know we want accountability. It’s certainly not to late to teach our children good eating habits.

Here’s the other cool thing about Hari’s book–most of her advice for eating and cooking and shopping and traveling are fit for allergic foodies. So go get a copy of The Food Baby Way today and let me know what you think.

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Indie Bound (find your local store)

The Food Babe Way Can Help Those with Food Allergies first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know

Near our home in Colorado Springs is a Mexican restaurant called Carlos Miguel’s that people rave about. So last Friday evening, when the streets were icy and my husband and I didn’t want to venture too far from home, I called the restaurant to discuss my food restrictions.

“What type of vegetable oil do you cook with?” I asked the man who answered the phone.

“Vegetable.”

“What type?  Soy? Corn? Canola?” I asked.

“Just vegetable.” He seemed a little perturbed.

I told the man I couldn’t eat at his restaurant without knowing exactly what was in the vegetable oil because I was allergic to soy and corn. He didn’t offer to check the ingredients label so I said goodbye.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a restaurant couldn’t tell me what was in their cooking oil. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.  How absurd it is for restaurants not to know what they are serving their guests!

 

 

I also have a hard time with processed foods containing soy and corn. In the United States, corn isn’t one of the top eight allergens required by law to be identified on labeling.  While soy is one of the top eight, the FDA exempts soybean oil and soy lecithin from being labeled.  The FDA and medical experts, such as Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, MD, author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), say most soy oil is highly refined so there is little proteins left to trigger an allergic reaction. Cold pressed and expeller pressed soybean oil are not highly refined and may contain soy proteins. The experts also say soy lecithin, a derivative of soy used as a nonstick agent in baking, has minimal proteins and those with a soy allergy need not worry.

My body does not agree with these experts. I’ve learned the hard way that soy oil, soy lecithin and corn oil  will all cause a severe reaction, including eosinophilic esophagitis. Blend them together–use soy/corn oil in my salad dressing and spray the grill with cooking spray containing soy lecithin–and I’ll be in really bad shape.  Talking with the other soy-allergic folks at food allergy conferences and through social media, I know I am not alone. Of course,  if you react to soy (so far 15 allergenic proteins have been found in soy) but can tolerate soy oil and/or soy lecithin, I’m happy for you! And a bit jealous! But do watch and discuss any changes in your health with your doctor.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil

Soy oil, or a blend of oils including soy oil, is used in restaurants because it’s inexpensive. Soybean meal and vegetable oil consume around 85% of the world’s soybean crop. By the way, the soybean is not a vegetable–soybean is a legume–but soy oil is still  referred to as vegetable oil.  Other plant-based oils include:

  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Coconut
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive
  • Palm
  • Peanut (a legume, not a nut)
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower

Unless the label says the oil is 100 percent, it may a blend of other oils. Read my post The Olive Oil Controversy. People can be allergic to any of these plant-based oils.

So here’s what I do to avoid an allergic reaction because of a vegetable oil mishap:

  • I read the ingredients labels of all oils before I buy them, and I stick to companies I trust. For a cooking spray, I use Winona Pure which does not contain soy lecithin.
  • I avoid all restaurants that cook only with soy oil and offer no other options (even if I’m ordering a food that doesn’t require oil–it’s just too risky). If they cannot identify what is in their  “vegetable oil,” I leave. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants and many Asian restaurants use soybean oil.
  • If it’s a questionable restaurant, I ask if the olive oil or other oil is 100 percent. This doesn’t usually go over well, but it’s been a lifesaver on several occasions.
  • I read allergen menus with a magnifying glass. Because of the FDA exemption for soybean oil and soy  lecithin, restaurants do not have to list them under “soy allergy.” Some allergen menus note this exemption with an asterisk, but not all do.
  • I ask a lot of questions before I order. What oil do you use to cook with? Does your vegetable oil contain soy? Do any other foods contain soy lecithin? Do you use cooking spray?
  • If possible, I call the chef in advance and discuss my dietary needs. I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, eggs and corn, but I always stress the soy allergy because it’s the one that gets missed by waitstaff the most. Untrained waitstaff think tofu and soy sauce.
  • When I make reservations on OpenTable, which I do a lot, I note I have a soy allergy including soy oil and soy lecithin. I also check out what people say on Urban Spoon and Food Allergy/Celiac Disease apps.
  • When I travel, I try to stick to chain restaurants that never use soy oil (these are usually higher-end chains).
  • When eating out in my hometown, I’m a regular at restaurants that don’t use any soy at all. I let them know how grateful I am to have a safe place to eat.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.