Women in Wellness: “Practice More Empowered Grocery Shopping” with Carrie Roberts, CEO of Sift Food Labels

Practice More Empowered Grocery Shopping: Items that are labeled as healthy may actually be full of harmful ingredients and additives. Knowledge is power so while you don’t need to toss everything in your pantry with harmful ingredients, you can make a commitment to be a more empowered shopper. By using the Sift app in the […]

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Practice More Empowered Grocery Shopping: Items that are labeled as healthy may actually be full of harmful ingredients and additives. Knowledge is power so while you don’t need to toss everything in your pantry with harmful ingredients, you can make a commitment to be a more empowered shopper. By using the Sift app in the grocery aisle to spot toxic ingredients, you can make an informed choice about what you bring home.

Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carrie Roberts the founder and CEO of Sift Food Labels. Carrie’s background is strongly rooted in consumer marketing with a proven track record of driving substantial business growth for several of the most loved brands in the world — Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, and T-Mobile. Today, she’s using her expertise in consumer technology to bring transparency to the $1 trillion U.S. food industry through the Sift Food Labels mobile app.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

My journey with Sift Food Labels began when I was expecting my first child. During the pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and I was hopeful that I could control my condition without medication. I did a lot of trial and error to get to the root of what caused my glucose spikes and added sugar ended up being a huge culprit, so I decided to completely remove sugar from my diet for the duration of my pregnancy. I found it to be incredibly difficult and not just because of my sweet tooth. When grocery shopping, it was almost impossible to decipher which ingredients were sugar. I began researching our food industry more and was alarmed to learn that there are nearly 100 different words used for sugar on our food labels and over 3,000 additives that are approved for use in our food. Grocery shopping, once a simple task, now took hours as I investigated the food labels on various products one by one. Even with a tedious attention to detail, sugar still managed to slip into my diet.

After my son arrived, I continued down the path of more awareness around the ingredients that I was putting in my body and the more I learned about what’s actually in the average American pantry, the more worried I became. At the time, I had a fast paced job in tech, was adjusting to life as a new mom, and I didn’t want healthy eating to be a painful and time-consuming chore — that’s when the idea for Sift Food Labels was born. With just a few simple taps and a quick scan, everyone, regardless of geography or income level, can have access to honest information about what’s in the food they eat.

Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?

Practice More Empowered Grocery Shopping: Items that are labeled as healthy may actually be full of harmful ingredients and additives. Knowledge is power so while you don’t need to toss everything in your pantry with harmful ingredients, you can make a commitment to be a more empowered shopper. By using the Sift app in the grocery aisle to spot toxic ingredients, you can make an informed choice about what you bring home.

Outsource Where You Can: I learned and accepted very early on that I couldn’t do it all. Something has to give and, when you try to do everything, it’s often your personal well-being that is put on the backburner. Food is something that is obviously very important to me, so I have plenty of wellness hacks around meal preparation. We have Daily Harvest Smoothies stocked in our freezer, a grass-fed meat delivery every month, and I get a local CSA box delivered for produce. It helps to eliminate a lot of stress for me and it ends up costing less than the same quality products from a grocery store.

Walk Outside Every Day: It’s amazing the impact that just a 30-minute walk outside can have on your day. Walking releases endorphins which boosts your mental health and decreases your stress, and I’ve noticed that I have my most creative moments when I’m disconnected and in nature.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My husband would be very disappointed if I didn’t say that meeting him was the most interesting story of my career. We met through work and, at the time, he was living in London and I was living in Seattle. We originally met in London and a few months later he was visiting Seattle for work, so we made plans to meet up. The Iceland Volcano of Eyjafjallajökull (which neither of us can pronounce) erupted and he was stuck in Seattle for over two weeks as all planes back to Europe were cancelled because of the ash. The rest is history. We like to think that Mother Nature insisted that we be together and did everything in her power to make it happen.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

A big misconception that I had when I started was that the entrepreneur life would be easy. I had so much conviction around Sift Food Labels that I expected to launch it into the world and have immediate success. What I’ve learned is that entrepreneurship is filled with lots of ups and downs and that success wouldn’t be as linear as corporate America was for me. I needed to redefine what success looked like. Success could be monetary, but it could also be rolling out a product update, getting a 5-star review on the app store, or having the freedom to sign off early for the day and surprise my kids at school with lunch.

When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

The U.S. is well behind its counterparts in food regulation. Before items are allowed to be sold in the European Union, for example, food manufacturers are simply required to hire their own experts to verify the safety of their food ingredients. These ingredients are then considered “GRAS,” or Generally Recognized as Safe, and can be put to immediate use. This means that the FDA has no way of tracking or regulating the thousands of food additives being used in our foods.

The good news is that Americans are on to this, with almost 3 out of 5 Americans saying they are worried about government food regulation. At Sift, we believe that knowledge is power. By providing users with transparency into their food labels, they are empowered to make more informed choices about the types of ingredients they put in their bodies.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It sounds cliché, but I have a ton of gratitude toward my parents and the valuable lessons they taught me throughout my childhood. Hard work was instilled in me at a very young age. As soon as I was old enough to work, I had a job. Whether it was babysitting neighborhood kids or filing paperwork at my dad’s company, I always had some level of an income. My parents struck the perfect balance of ensuring that all of my basic needs were met, but never gave me so much that I didn’t have to work. They also raised my brother and I with an abundance mindset. We had the ability to achieve anything that we set our minds to and, if we didn’t like something, there was nothing stopping us from changing it.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I truly believe that food is at the center of our health and wellness. Every day, we have a choice. Do we fuel ourselves with food that creates brain fog or provides mental clarity? Does it hinder our spirits or bring more positivity to our life? Does it provide us with energy or does it deplete our energy?

I am in no way perfect in the food choices that I make, but I’m a big believer that conscientious eating has the ability to change some of our most pressing issues as a society. From depression to disease to bullying, so many of our problems start with and can be solved with food.

What is your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. You will be in a constant state of learning and growing: as an entrepreneur you have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. In the corporate world I was surrounded by subject matter experts but, as a startup founder, I have to be more nimble and don’t have the extensive pool of resources to tap. I’m in situations daily where I have no idea what I’m doing, but you just have to roll with it, and, most importantly, learn to trust your gut.
  2. The work never stops: as an entrepreneur you’re never done and the amount of things that need your attention will always outpace your capacity. You have to become diligent about prioritization and planning your day. What is the most important thing for you to accomplish that week? What is going to have the most impact and needs 100% from you? What can you only give 80% to? As a Type A I struggle with this, but it’s so important.
  3. You have to prioritize self care: the best thing for you, your business, and your family is that you’re taking care of yourself. Don’t ever feel guilty about focusing on your well-being. In fact, make it your #1 priority. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )

Recently, I have been majorly girl crushing on Danika Brysha. She’s a total bossbabe. She is the founder and CEO of Model Meals, an influencer that uses her platform for body positivity, and the creator of a great podcast called Light + Life. She has a ton of valuable self-care tips and is very vulnerable and self-reflective. I’m always inspired by her message.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Environmental changes is a big thing that I worry about right now. From the extreme weather changes to the lack of food for the Orcas (something that hits close to home for a Seattle native) to the decreased protection of our national parks. As a global society, we need to come together to ensure that generations after us get to benefit from all mother nature has to offer. On a personal level, I eat plant based at least one day per week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’m also diligent about composting, using reusable snack bags in my kid’s lunches, exclusively using reusable water bottles and I recently switched to a bamboo toothbrush.

I found it a bit paralyzing when I started thinking about all the ways that I could reduce waste so, instead of trying to change everything at once, I try to make one swap a month to be more environmentally friendly.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow Sift Food Labels on Instagram or Facebook at @SiftFoodLabels and you can find me on Instagram at @1carrieroberts or LinkedIn.

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