Monday, February 7, 2011

Food Rules

I finally got around to reading Michael Pollan's Food Rules today and managed to devour the entire book in about an hour. It essentially breaks down the last part of In Defense of Food, into 64 simple rules of thumb about food and eating. Below are some of my favorites and some comments on them:

Rule #3: Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry. I've been doing a better job of checking ingredient lists lately and making sure I recognize everything on there. I've still bought a few things that broke this rule (Yoplait yogurt was on sale and it's got a few questionable ingredients, but I don't think I can get the hubby to eat real yogurt and it's a nice work snack).

•  Rule #7: Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce. I finally got my husband on this one, because it was originally stated that if you couldn't pronounce it, it wasn't okay. My husband is about half a semester away from earning his PharmD, so he can pronounce most of that stuff and even knows what a lot of it is too. He seems to think that this knowledge makes it okay for consumption—but it's not. And now, with the new rule, he can't argue it anymore.

Rule #13: Eat only foods that will eventually rot. I thought this was a good rule because it's the stuff that's really good for you in food that goes bad with time. That means that if it doesn't go bad, there's no good stuff in it. Interesting note: Pollan mentions that honey does, in fact, go bad. But it takes centuries. So now I know I never need to throw away honey again (Hint: If it crystallized, just throw it in the microwave until it's smooth again!). 

• Rule #19: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.  I just thought this was a funny (and true) play on words. 

• Rule #23: Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food. So guilty of not doing this. I think I would be okay skipping meat more often—but hubby's gotta have his meat at almost every meal. His exceptions: pasta (sometimes), breakfast (sometimes), and PB&J. I'm going to try to make more foods without meat in them, but the trick is finding things he'll eat. Future goal, I think. 

• 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, pigs, and other mammals]." I've heard this one before, although it was simpler: "The less legs, the better." This also accounted for the ultra healthy and leg-less fish. This one is a bit harder to follow for me too, because I like beef and pork so much more than chicken. I think chicken is kind of boring, or you have to add a lot to make it interesting. I do like fish though, but I've got to convince hubby before I can get more in the house. 

• Rule #25: Eat your colors. This is another one I've heard before and I've done a better job as of late. Basically the different colors in your food represent different nutrients, so the more colorful your diet, the more nutrients you obtain.

• Rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. Now I don't feel bad for making two cakes last week... 

• Rule #43: Have a glass of wine with dinner. As Pollan noted, this rule is well-known but few recommend it because of the taboo surrounding alcohol and alcoholism in the United States. I've got a very good friend who is a recovering alcoholic, so I know the damages it can do. However, alcoholism is extremely low in Europe, where there are much lower (or effectively non-existent) drinking ages. This says to me that normalizing appropriate drinking behavior in your household will do good both for your physical and social/mental health. 

• Rule #44: Pay more, eat less. As my previous post will attest, I wholeheartedly agree with this rule. We spend less of our budget on food than any other nation and we're eating junk. If we spent a little extra money on it, we could be eating so much better. 

• Rule #49: Eat slowly. Another great piece of advice that goes unnoticed in the United States. We're all too busy to slow down and actually enjoy our food. My husband is a huge culprit of this: He will chide me when he's finished and I'm still only halfway through my meal. Sometimes it's hard though. I get either a 15-minute or a 30-minute break at my jobs, so if I want to eat, I basically have no choice but to scarf down while there's still time. When I only get a 15-minute break, I try to eat dinner already and just bring a small snack to tide me over. 

• Rule #52: Buy smaller glasses and plates. Sometimes we'll eat off of the salad plates instead of the dinner plates, and it does make a big difference. I feel like I've eaten more than I have because my plate is so full. We have smaller glasses at the house, but I don't use them as often as I used to. I'll have to get back in the habit. 

• Rule #54: "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper." Excellent adage that I'm terrible about following. When I have to be somewhere in the morning, I usually get up about a half hour before I need to be there, which leaves pretty much no time for breakfast. Then, if I'm working, I won't eat lunch and so I'll be starving by the time dinner comes around and stuff my face. My P.E. teacher in high school once said that you shouldn't eat after 6 PM for the same reasons, so I try not to eat when it's really late, and I'm normally pretty good about it. 

• Rule #59: Try not to eat alone. Again, this one's hard for me because my husband and I are often on different schedules and when I'm at work, I'm usually the only person on break. When I can eat with others though, I strongly prefer to do so. 

• Rule #60: Treat treats as treats. Another funny and true play on words. It goes along with Rule #39 in saying that it's okay to eat things that are bad for you, as long as you don't do it every day.

• Rule #63: Cook. We've been doing a lot better about this and I feel like we've been spending less on food because we haven't been going out to eat as often as we used to.

• Rule #64: Break the rules once in a while. Nobody's perfect, and it's only going to hurt you if you obsess over your food all the time. Weight Watchers gives its clients extra points each week on top of their daily limit as special occasion or splurge points, and it's actually really good for you if you're trying to lose weight. This is because if the body figures out you're trying to starve it, it will start retaining every last morsel you put inside it. As such, you have to trick the body with special treats every now and then so it doesn't catch the scent. So you see, it's good for you to break the rules.

Excellent pocket reference for when I need a quick rule of thumb on food. Next on my list is a book I borrowed from my mom called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I also ordered Michael Pollan's first book and a couple books by Marion Nestle which should arrive later this week.


  1. Will you be able to implement these changes or will Arlond rebel? :)

  2. He says he's rebelling, but I'll break him. Heh heh heh...