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Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules”

Posted Oct 14 2009 10:00pm

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

Because two friends (and blog enthusiasts) have recommended this New York Times article (by Michael Pollan) to me in the past two days, I feel like I’d be doing a huge disservice to both of them if I didn’t share it with you today.

So here’s an excerpt from the article, Rules to Eat By.

“Every trip to the supermarket these days requires us to navigate what has become a truly treacherous food landscape. I mean, what are we to make of a wonder of food science like the new Splenda with fiber? (“The great sweet taste you want and a little boost of fiber.”) Should we call this progress? Is it even food? And then, at the far other end of the nutritional spectrum, how are we to process (much less digest) the new, exuberantly caloric Double Down sandwich that KFC has introduced? This shameless exaltation of dietary fat actually redefines the very concept of a sandwich by replacing the obligatory bread with two slabs of fried chicken kept some distance apart by strips of bacon, two kinds of cheese and a dollop of sauce…”

And this:

“…If we can’t rely on the marketers or the government or even the nutritionists to guide us through the supermarket woods, then who can we rely on? Well, ask yourself another question: How did humans manage to choose foods and stay healthy before there were nutrition experts and food pyramids or breakfast cereals promising to improve your child’s focus or restaurant portions bigger than your head? We relied on culture, which is another way of saying: on the accumulated wisdom of the tribe. (Which is itself another way of saying: on your mom and your friends.) All of us carry around rules of thumb about eating that have been passed down in our families or plucked from the cultural conversation. Think of this body of food knowledge as samizdat nutrition: an informal, unsanctioned way of negotiating our eating lives that becomes indispensable at a time when official modes of talking about food have suffered a serious loss of credibility.”

And finally, this:

“…  for all the authority we grant to science in matters of nutrition, culture still has a lot to teach us about how to choose, prepare and eat food, and that this popular wisdom is worth preserving — perhaps today more than ever, in this era of dazzling food science, supersize portions and widespread dietary confusion…”

It seems to me he’s  talking about intuitive eating. As in, we know more than we think we know and if we just trust ourselves, we might fare better than we ever imagined.

Think of a toddler that pushes away her dinner after ten minutes of sifting through a bowl of Cheerios. Tomorrow she might be extra-hungry, and that’s OK. But (to her mom’s chagrin) she’s not likely  going to force Cheerios down her throat just because it’s there, either. Toddlers really have a grasp on intuitive eating; we just seem to lose it over time.

Which is why I seem to have such an illicit love affair with dark chocolate …

Anyway, truth be told, I’ve never read Michael Pollan’s books, In Defense of Food or The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Plenty of my friends have, bloggers I read have …  and I know the premise of each — I just haven’t gotten my hands on them yet.

It turns out Pollan has a new book coming out in January called Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and you can bet this will be on my Amazon wish list. I think it’s going to be a great read.

You can view Pollan’s reader’s favorite food rules here.

As someone who has journaled every day practically for the past 5+ years … I have a few of my own rules, but my favorite, most tried-and-true is something I learned when I began Weight Watchers in 2004 … and it’s stuck ever since.

“Know before you go.”

As in, know what you want on the menu before you get to the restaurant, which is particularly important because we like to go out to eat a lot.

This doesn’t mean never give into a spontaneous choice (hello, life would be boring if everything was planned) … but nine times out of ten, having this forward-thinking mentality has been my saving grace throughout my journey.

How about you? What are your “food rules” to live by?

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