Q&A with NGI Alum and Author Stefanie Sacks | Natural Gourmet Institute

Q&A with NGI Alum and Author Stefanie Sacks

Posted December 23, 2014

If anyone is qualified to give you “an action plan for your pantry and plate,” it’s Stefanie Sacks. Stefanie has been studying food and healing for 25 years – aside from being a NGI grad, Stefanie has a Master’s of Science degree in nutrition from Columbia University, is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. She also blogs and hosts her own radio show, which focuses on food, cooking, nutrition and health. She works as a nutrition consultant, has contributed to several books, and is a sought-after guest expert for TV programs and other media. As her first solo written project, What the Fork Are You Eating? provides an overview of dangerous ingredients that are often hidden in our food, as well as an action plan with 50 time-tested, delicious recipes. Read on to learn Stefanie’s motivation behind this project, as well as some actionable tips for how you can start eating healthier now.

WTF jacket high res (3)

What inspired you to write this book?

Writing is a passion – as a child and teen, journaling and poetry were necessary outlets. What The Fork is the marriage of my passion for words with that of everything food. My clients and students are “guilty” of encouraging me to write this book, and after years of talking the talk and walking the walk (and contributing to several other books), I set out to see if writing one of my own was achievable.

What challenges were you faced with while writing it?

Every part of writing What The Fork was a challenge – from finding a literary agent, to getting signed by one, to vetting through the concept and writing the proposal to actually landing a book deal. In the end, the folks at Tarcher/Penguin Random House believed in my message and in me.

But I can’t forget the challenges of writing a book of this nature. The food landscape is constantly changing and very confusing, even to those in the know. In addition, the information is vast and daunting. I had to literally curate years of food and agricultural history as well as past, current and even future information on everything food via health experts, industry experts, the U.S. government and food truth seekers to create something that was not only informative but also inspirational and actionable.

What would be the first change you recommend someone who wants to start eating healthier make?

Remove anything artificial from your diet from colors and flavors to sweeteners and trans fats.

What are some main things to look out for when reading product labels?

Firstly, please note that a product that over-boasts goodness is often a dead giveaway that the food is phony. So don’t believe all the health claims, rather turn to the ingredient lists to better understand the story of your food. For example, sugar-free means your food is likely sweetened with fake sugar. And low-fat or no-fat means that the fat has been replaced with sugar.

Also, sugar has over 50 different names from cane sugar to cane juice and dextrose to maltodextrin. So be a sugar skeptic and count the multiple ways it can be listed on your label.

Eating healthfully can get pretty expensive – what are some tips you have for eating clean on a budget?

Many presume that eating healthfully is costly. When in fact, if you know how to choose food, it won’t break the bank. They key is to get in the kitchen as much as you can and aim for beans like lentils and whole grains like rice as your staples with fresh fruit and vegetables adorning your daily food choice. Minimize animal proteins, only choosing the higher quality sources to best support your health and that of the environment. For the real how-to for eating healthy on a budget, check out Good and Cheap.

If eating healthfully also means cooking most meals at home – what advice do you have for those who don’t have hours to spend in the kitchen?

It is all about planning. When you sit down to schedule your week (as we all have to whether we are juggling school, work, kids or anything else), set time aside to food shop, plan a weekly menu and set a couple of hours one day per week to cook some staples, including a hearty soup or stew – like chili or other bean-centered dish like curried lentils – and some animal protein (if you indulge) like chicken cutlets. With this, you can throw together a quick salad or cooked vegetable, or rice or quinoa to complement meals during the week.

If you were to choose one takeaway readers could have from this book, what would it be?

I want my readers to know that even small changes in food choice can make big everyday differences. Get informed and choose from a place of knowledge because you can literally take part in changing your health and that of the environment.

Stefanie Sacks Author - credit Geir Magnusson (3)

Photo Credit: Geir Magnusson