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Food Rules

by jenny sansouci on March 31, 2010

When you walk into the supermarket, are you confused about what to buy that’s actually good for you? With billions of dollars being spent on food advertising and different health claims slapped onto every label in sight, you’re not alone. With each new diet fad or nutrition finding, products suddenly change their labels to match. “Boosts immune system! High in Omega-3s! Low-Fat! No Trans-Fat! Sugar-Free! Gluten-Free! All Natural!” I’m sure you’re familiar with the ever-expanding shelves of these products (most of which are actually causing the ever-expanding waistlines in our country).

Luckily for all of us, Michael Pollan helps simplify the process. I read his newest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual last week and it is a great resource for anyone who needs a simple guide to healthy shopping and healthy eating. The book contains 64 short (I read the whole book in less than an hour) “rules” to remember when deciding what to put into your body. Some of the rules give explanations. Some are just 1 sentence long. Even if you normally can’t be bothered to read a book…believe me, this book is not a huge time investment, but following the suggestions will be a huge investment in your health.

The reason I loved it? The main point he drives home is the same thing that every nutrition expert actually agrees on, and the first step you really need to take to achieve better health: LESS PROCESSED FOODS. MORE WHOLE FOODS IN THEIR NATURAL STATE! Pollan’s main words of advice: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Yes, it really is that simple. He goes on to clarify what he means by those 3 statements with his list of rules.

Examples of some of my favorite “rules” in Pollan’s book:

“Eat Food”section:

  • Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.
  • Avoid foods that you see advertised on television.
  • Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature. (Can you picture a package of Twinkies growing in nature?)

“Not too much” section:

  • Leave some food on your plate (this is a toughie!)
  • Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds).
  • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does (don’t eat gas station food)!

“Mostly plants” section:

  • Treat meat (if you eat meat) as a flavoring or special occasion food instead of a staple at every meal.
  • Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature.
  • Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism (innovative “foods” are often highly processed – read the ingredients list).

I just gave you a little tidbit of the book to munch on, but I really do recommend you pick it up and check it out. Even if you only take one suggestion from this book, it could make a world of difference – plus, don’t you think its time to take control of your food decisions instead of just blindly trusting the health claims on the brightly-colored labels? I do.

My personal suggestion: stop looking at nutrition labels in terms of fat and calories when making food decisions. Read the INGREDIENTS instead. I’m not saying you have to ignore the fat/calorie content of your food, I don’t want to cause any panic attacks here, but I am telling you that a natural, whole food product with minimal ingredients (ideally just 1 ingredient!) will benefit your body SO MUCH MORE than a fat-free, low-calorie, artificially-sweetened “food-like substance.”

Now go ahead…get the book. Read it quickly and then pass it on to someone else. I’m thinking about buying a few copies to give out to the people I’m helping to improve their health & nutrition. It is simple and to the point.

To further your awareness even more about what you’re putting into your body, check out my post on Food, Inc.

If you’re ready to get started cooking with natural ingredients, check out my favorite recipe site here. Just last night I made the Coconut Red Lentil soup. 🙂 

Or buy the book Super Natural Cooking.

And of course, if you have any questions I’m happy to help. Contact me.


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Do you love health, nutrition and wellness? Check out the Institute for Integrative Nutrition!


Kathryn April 1, 2010 at 12:59 am

Great post! Isaac’s parents have raved about Omnivore’s Dilemma and I have been meaning to read it — now I think I may have to read this one as well! Have you read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer? He is one of my favorite authors to begin with and this book was amazing, depressing, and comprehensive regarding the food industry, especially where meat is concerned. Of course it is kind of a case of preaching to the choir; after reading this book I probably went from being 80% vegetarian to 95% vegetarian, but I like to think that every bit counts! Luckily in Madison we have access to organic, sustainable, local meat and veggies. Unfortunately, most aren’t so lucky.

jenny sansouci April 1, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I haven’t read that book but I’m definitely going to put it on my list. Thanks K!! Happy to hear you have such yummies in Madison! <3

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