Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Food Rules

Might I recommend a book for your consideration in this season of diet-starting and food-related resolution making?

Michael Pollan's Food Rules.

Says Pollan, "After spending several years trying to answer the supposedly incredibly complicated question of how we should eat in order to be maximally healthy, I discovered the answer was shockingly simple: eat real food, not too much of it, and more plants than meat. Or, put another way, get off the modern western diet, with its abundance of processed food, refined grains and sugars, and its sore lack of vegetables, whole grains and fruit."

Pollan's rules, which cover everything from quantity of food (not so much) to types of food (things that will rot, mostly plants, especially leaves) to when you should eat (when you're hungry, not when you're bored), are all rooted in common sense. Many of them feel like heirloom wisdom from your great grandmother. But they also seem sort of revelatory and fresh.
Pollan's simplicity and wit give the rules a catchy-ness that sticks. Rule 19, for example, has been in my mind since I read it: "If it came from a plant eat it. If it was made in a plant, do not."

Here's a little sampler to whet your appetite:

Rule 24 - Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows and pigs).

Rule 14 - Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Rule 46 - Eat 'til your hunger is gone, not 'til you're full.

Food Rules. Good stuff. I think you'll love it.


Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous book. As a dietitian I fully endorse it!

Abbie said...

Anyone else feel like Michael Pollen is a bit contradictory? Don't get me wrong, I really liked in defense of food (minus the fall apart at the end when he contradicts himself). I agree with what he says - we eat pretty much the way he says to eat (minus the organic part - if everyone ate organic lots of people would starve to death & we can't afford to eat all organic, although it does taste better, but...yeah, blah blah blah, I'm not arguing my point right now...)

I just remember him talking about in his first book how Americans are searching for someone to tell them how to eat and if we just follow his 3 simple rules (and our instinct and logic (and the word of wisdom)) we wouldn't need a book to tell us how to eat, but then he writes another book. It confuses me.

Anyway, that was a rant. I haven't read this one and wondered if anyone felt the same way with him publishing this book. Anyone? Am I alone? I know a lot of people love this book, so I'm probably on an island on this one. I'm sure it's a great book, but yeah...

The end:)

kami said...

I love that Michael Pollan is raising awareness on the fact that it is our food system that is failing us and that the only way to change things is to truly change the way we approach and eat food. I have become incredibly passionate about it over the past few years and started a blog dedicated to sharing what I love. I'd love for you to visit! Thank you for posting about this!

Rachael said...

I love this book. We've been eating this way for awhile (ever since I read The China Study), but I think that Pollan does a great job here of condensing and simplifying. Our favorite rule around our house: eat junk food, but only if you make it yourself. It's nice to not be denying yourself yummy treats, but they're 1) healthier and 2) more infrequent if you actually prepare the ice cream yourself instead of picking up a couple of cartons at the store.

Rae. said...

AAAAAAA! After reading this I have been obsessed with getting things right in our house's diet. I don't believe in "diets" at all, and this book is such an awesome COMMON SENSE take on the western diet.

And for all the Mormons out there, it only reinforces the Word of Wisdom we're supposed to be living!

I also recommend the documentary Food Inc., because I do think that also raises some good discussion about the ethics of what we eat too. (And yet, I still have yet to switch to organic meat - we're a work in progress).

Joan said...

I have not read this book and in all honesty am reluctant to. I am sure I would agree wholeheartedly with what he has to say (from what I've read in this post it sounds right on). I'm probably not making sense here...but any ideology that requires me to work and think more (at this stage in my life) scares me. I know I sound like a lazy, negligent, awful mother! I'm not, I promise. I just have a new baby and two older boys to tend and love and I am on "survival mode."
Maybe I will read it in two or three months when I am myself again and not feeling so overwhelmed with my life :)
Thanks for the book recommendation--I'm sure I will enjoy it when the time comes.

ABBIE: It sounds like Pollen wants to make a few more bucks after his first book was such a success (or at least I'm assuming it was). That's likely the reason, don't you think? Money.

Kimberly said...

I've lived rule 46 my whole life-my parents were very good about not forcing me to 'finish' my food, just letting me eat what I wanted. Of course if I later wanted a snack I had to make it-no need to make mom work extra super hard.

Anyway, that's the reason I feel I've never struggled with being overweight-I just never ate too much.

I love Rachael's idea! We practically do this at home anyway, it would be simple to make it into a rule.

Bloom said...

I'm with Joan. It's for sure about money. When someone like Pollan, who has people's attention and trust, succeeds with a book, why wouldn't he write another? And, to be honest, I don't fault him for that! That being said, I have read no Pollan books, so I can't speak as to how contradictory he may sound. And, Abbie dear, feel free to rant anytime around here. :)

These are totally the rules I know make sense and guide my general philosophy on food and menu planning, but I have to say I have been buying way more packaged food lately. In this pregnancy cold cereal has been pretty much the only thing that has never made me want to vomit, so I've eaten a llloootttt of it.

One interesting thing I've found with Americans, is that we are often so used to packages with simple directions or canned/frozen veggies (which I totally use often--don't get me wrong), that we pick up something like a head of kale or a whole butternut squash and say, 'how the heck do i prepare this?' I just find that ironic that people don't know how to prepare simple, basic, whole foods. I think that's one of the reasons many Americans don't eat the way Pollan (and others) suggests--they don't know how to cook that way.


Abbie said...

Agreed! It's all about the Benjamins.

But I felt this weird trust with In the Defense of Food, like Pollen was trying to bust agendas and such, so when this one popped up, I was like WHAT? Didn't you (Michael, my friend) just say Americans rely way too much on other sources to tell them how to eat instead of their instinct. But maybe, since our how food situation is so messed up, it's a good thing he came out with this book. I would probably do the same thing if I were him...and I'll probably read the book...because I really do feel this is the right way to eat - whole foods.

And totally agree with the whole "what the heck do I do with Kale?" that a lot Americans, including myself until I learned a bit more, struggle with when they are faced with having to cook from scratch.

Oh, and man ALIVE I can tell you how many bowls of cereal I eat. But cereal is soooo good for you, right? :)

Anne & Joan, thanks for chatting this out with me:) Isn't it great that we can chat things out like this and be happy at the end? Aw, Bloom, you've rock my socks, yet again.

Joan said...

Our entire society is about quick, convenient, and easy. It's no wonder fast food rules our nation and we don't even know what kale looks like (let alone how to prepare it!)
Sad but true.

Rachael said...

My understanding was that Food Rules was sort of the Cliff Notes of In Defense of Food--I kind of took it as a more accessible way for more people to read the basics and apply the principles that he was talking about in the longer book (In Defense of Food).

PS--I love favorite way to serve it is stirred into soups. It cooks down nicely so you can fit an entire bunch of kale into a pot of soup--just add at the very end and stir it in until it wilts down.

Bloom said...

Oooh Rachael, I looove kale in soup! Amen!


Amy@ServingPinkLemonade said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I haven't heard of this book. I've read Pollen's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and really liked it. Another book I loved was "Real Food: What to eat and why" by Nina Planck.

lovely by m said...

i've heard about this book and have been intrigued to read it. thanks for sharing.

Bridget said...

looooove michael pollan. i read omnivores dilemma.

amber said...

I know I'm late on this thread, but I love Joan's first comment.I often feel the same way, and it makes me feel good to know I'm not alone.

I like what I've heard of Michael Pollen's ideas. And I try my best- we do try to eat whole foods, limit packaged and processed items, etc. But I'm scared to read his book(s) because I know my personality tends to swing towards extremes, and I don't want to feel guilty for my slip-ups. And I know I'm not in a position to eliminate them.

That's one reason why I haven't watched Food, Inc. I know I don't have the money to eat all organic. I just don't. Especially meat. And we enjoy the occasional fast food meal, particularly on long road trips to visit family. And while I know it's not the best for us, I can't help but feel that in this instance, some degree of ignorance is bliss.

One of my favorite posts on this blog is "Real vs. Ideal" (or some titel close to that.)
Anne, you mentioned that you eat canned vegetables and cold cereal, so I feel like you are in the same boat as me- trying to live the ideal, but finding a nice balance that works for you depending on your situation. How do you do it without feeling like you're efforts don't measure up?

Bloom said...


Good question. I am the type of person that can easily beat herself up for not measuring up (in ANY area), but I am just learning to let go of that. So, in the example of eating cold cereal, canned veggies, etc., I just think: this is not a season of life in which I can cook 3 amazing meals each day. In this pregnancy, trying to feel good enough each day to keep my house from looking like ground zero and making sure my children feel loved and attended to matters much more.

In some situations/seasons we have to just let some things go and focus on the things that matter the absolute most. (I recognize that's easier said than done!)