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Interview with a Food Industry Insider - Bruce Bradley

I first came across the blog of Bruce Bradley about five or six months ago. Much of what I read is research on nutrition, metabolism and exercise, which I try to share in various articles on this site. I was intrigued with Bruce’s site because it came from a little different angle on nutrition. Bruce builds a convincing case against diets dominated by processed foods by providing insight into the processed food market itself. His blog,, contains dozens of posts to help readers understand the difference between real food and processed food. In addition, his writing helps people understand the difference between the advertising they’re exposed to and the
truth behind supposed “health” foods.

Enjoy the interview!

-- Tom Nikkola, Director of Nutrition & Weight Management


Bruce was willing to answer a number of questions about who he is and what he learned from his past career in the processed food industry. My hope is you’ll learn a couple new insights from his responses to the questions below. Be sure to check out his site and, if you’re looking for a new fiction book, consider ordering his new book, Fat Profits.

TN: Bruce, you have an interesting background, especially with the perspective you write from in your blog. Could you tell our readers a little about you, as well as what your goals are with the content you provide in your blog?

BB: Yes, I do have a pretty unique story. For over 15 years I worked as a processed food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. However, in 2008 I decided to leave General Mills for a variety of reasons. As time passed and I got more perspective on how food companies operate and the growing health problems in our country, I decided to speak out. So I now blog about the tricks, traps, and tools food marketers use to get us eating more and more processed foods. I'm hopeful that by uncovering some of these practices, people will start making better food choices and demand to know exactly what's really in their food.

TN: Knowing what you know today, what would you change about the past if you could?

BB: I wished I had asked more questions. Although I've always had reservations about some of the items food and beverage companies sell, in general I thought most of the products were fine.

But after watching obesity rates skyrocket, the food industry disavow any responsibility, and regulators drop the ball as they rubber stamp food companies' agendas, I've come to the conclusion something has to be done. Status quo is not an option. The scales are tipped too far out of balance, and the average consumer doesn't stand a chance. So if we're going to get back on a healthier track, things have to change. People have a right to know what's really in their food, and I'm not talking about the leanwashed version that companies continue to churn out to sell more. So I'm using my past experiences to help change the conversation about food.

TN: Is there a particular marketing practice that food companies use that gets you mad?

BB: There are lots of them, but one that really annoys me is the use of nutritional claims. For example, food companies love to shout out product features like "made with whole grains" and then quickly make the giant leap and tell you their product is healthy. It's not that simple. While whole grains may be more nutritious than refined grains, one ingredient doesn't make a product healthy.

As I've often said, you can make a chocolate cake with whole grain flour, but it's still chocolate cake. Unfortunately nutritional "red herrings" like "whole grains" can mislead consumers. Please, before you buy any processed foods, always read the entire ingredient label and look for added sugars, salt, unhealthy fats, and questionable additives like colors, flavorings and preservatives.

TN: From our experience, people are all over the place with their nutrition choices. We feel the best nutrition plan is rich in high-quality protein, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, for some people, dairy and high-quality nutritional supplements as needed. A lot of people are at the other end of the spectrum in terms of processed foods and food quality. With what you know about processed foods, what are three things you’d want those who are just beginning their path toward a healthier way of life to know?

BB: First and foremost, minimize the amount of processed food in your diet. Despite the myriad of claims made in ads or on packages, there are very few nutritionally dense processed foods—instead they're usually riddled with sugar, salt, fats, or other refined ingredients that simply aren't good for you. Second, I recommend you eat real food—that means buying fresh ingredients and actually preparing your meals vs. simply re-heating them like most big food companies have trained us to do. Finally, I believe you need to listen to your body. What do I mean? Everyone's body is unique, and what works for one person, may not work for someone else. So rather than debate which diet is best (paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) I believe people should listen to their bodies, learn more about where their food comes from, and decide which food philosophy fits them best.

TN: We have a lot of parents who read our blog and subscribe to our newsletter. Helping their kids make good choices is a common concern from them. What advice would you give parents about steering their kids away from processed foods? What have you found to be helpful with your son?

BB: Parenting is one of the toughest jobs around, and teaching our kids to eat healthy in a world where they're bombarded with junk food messages is extremely difficult. My best advice is to inspire your kids to eat healthy. After all, actions speak louder than words, so begin by modeling good, nutritious choices. Second, find the real foods that your kids like and start there. Even if it's a fairly limited list at first, over time you can gradually experiment and add new foods. Third, don't go grocery shopping with your kids. Let's face it—most food stores are minefields filled with unhealthy choices. It's hard enough for adults to navigate this alone, so when you're in the midst of making a change to real, unprocessed foods, try to leave the kids at home. Finally, I'm not a big fan of forbidding certain foods. Somehow their allure grows when you say "never." My philosophy is occasional indulgence isn't a bad thing, as long as it truly is once in a while and not a habit.

TN: You recently published a fictional thriller called Fat Profits. I really enjoyed reading it. It was a nice break from all the non-fiction I read. What made you decide to write a fiction book rather than a non-fiction?

BB: I've always enjoyed fiction, especially when reading for pleasure. I think it's because storytelling is such a powerful way to introduce new ideas, thoughts, and feelings. When I decided to write a book about food, I thought a thriller would be a great way to not only entertain, but also inform. While Fat Profits is first and foremost a suspenseful, action-packed novel filled with all the twists requisite of the thriller genre, it also brings to life how corporate greed, not health, drives big food companies. So my hope is that Fat Profits will reach a very broad audience and get more people asking, "Do I really know what's in my food?"

TN: As part of Life Time: The Healthy Way of Life Company, nutrition and exercise are always on our minds. What do you do for fitness? What does your diet look like?

BB: I think staying active and eating right is the foundation for living a healthy life, so I try to do my best. The core of my fitness routine is working out at Life Time 3-5 times a week, usually lifting weights and doing some cardio. I also enjoy running outside so I try to get out at least a couple times a week either in my neighborhood or around the lakes. Hot yoga is another way I enjoy staying fit. Although I haven't practiced much yoga lately, when I injured my Achilles tendon a couple years ago, I found it was a great way to workout and get a similar endorphin rush as running.

With respect to my diet, I follow Michael Pollan's simple advice, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." I love vegetables and legumes, so I eat mostly a plant-based diet with the occasional serving of meat or dairy.

TN: One final question, what’s next for Bruce Bradley?

BB: I don't think the food industry is going to stop their troubling practices any time soon, so I will continue to speak up and take a stand for real food on my blog and with the media. I've also been asked to write a non-fiction book and share more about what it was like to work in big food companies. While I'm considering this option, I'm not convinced it's the best way I can make a difference. Finally, I really enjoyed writing Fat Profits and it's been well received. So if it takes off, I have lots of ideas on how to continue that story with a sequel.

TN: Thank you so much for your time Bruce. I hope our readers take a couple ideas from your answers and at a minimum, start asking more questions about the foods they eat. I also appreciate your willingness to field additional questions from our readers if they ask questions in the comments section below.

If you’d like to read more from Bruce, please check out his blog at If you’d like to post another question or comment, please do so below. Bruce is willing to contribute to the ongoing discussion on our site, but I strongly recommend checking out his site and digging into more of what he has to offer there as well.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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