Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Tip - Michael Pollan's Food Rules

I haven't read any of Michael Pollan's books, and I didn't hear the greatest things about his recent appearance on Oprah, but I sure did like this list of Food Rules that a friend passed on to me last week. Although he clearly doesn't advocate an entirely plant-based diet, these tips seem like a great starting point for those looking to improve their family's nutrition.

The tips range from the practical ("Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.") to the humorous ("Donʼt eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.) . . . and my personal favorite, "Itʼs not food if it arrived through the window of your car."

I hope you find a few tips that resonate with you to help you on your journey towards health!

FOOD RULESMichael Pollan, Penguin Boots


1. Eat food. Real food. Not genetically modified, chemically altered or processed science experiments.

2. Donʼt eat anything your great-grandmother wouldnʼt recognize as food.

3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human being would keep in the pantry.

4. Avoid food that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Sugar is sugar not matter what you call it.

5. Avoid foods that have some sort of sugar or sweetener listed among the top three ingredients.

6. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients. More ingredients = more processed.

7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.

8. Avoid food products that make health claims.

9. Avoid food products with the word “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “non-fat.” Usually the fat is replaced with carbs (sugar) which means more calories.

10. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

11. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

12. Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

13. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state growing in nature.

14. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can. Go to a farmersʼ market instead.

15. Buy your snacks at the farmersʼ market.

16. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.

17. Donʼt ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.

18. If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, donʼt.

19. Itʼs not food if it arrived through the window of your car.

20. Itʼs not food if itʼs called by the same name in every language. Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles.
21. Eat mostly plants. Especially leaves.

22. Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.

23. Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms) 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).

24. Eat your colors. Green. Orange. Red. Blue. Purple. Yellow. More vitamins and anti-cancer compounds.

25. Drink the spinach water. The water you used to cook vegetables is full of vitamins. Make soup.

26. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well. Grass fed. Not hormone, corn and anti-biotic fed.

27. If you have the space, buy a freezer. Plus a juicer, slow cooker, and blender.

28. Eat like an omnivore. Variety. Colors. Textures. Minerals. Fiber. Vitamins. Tastes.

29. Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.

30. Eat wild foods when you can.

31. Eat foods that have been predigested by bacteria and fungi. Yogurt, soy, sauerkraut = B12 = Brain food.

32. Sweeten and salt your food yourself.

33. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature.

34. Donʼt eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

35. The whiter the bread, the sooner youʼll be dead.

36. Favor the kind of grains that have been traditionally stone-ground.

37. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. How often will you really bake cookies, cakes? Make your own chips and fries? Under those circumstances, not often I bet.

38. Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skips supplements. Have the health conscious awareness of one who takes supplements, but instead of taking them, eat a healthy diet instead.

39. Eat more like the French, the Japanese, the Italians, or the Greeks. Fresh. Natural. Small quantities.

40. Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism. Soy protein isolate? Just eat soy. The real stuff.

41. Have a glass of wine with dinner. Polyphenols = good for the heart.

42. Pay more. Eat less. Higher quality food = less processed = more expensive = but better for you. Pay more either at the grocery store or at the drug store. You choose.

43. Eat less. Period. No seconds. No snacking. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food.

44. Stop eating before you are full.

45. Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored. If youʼre not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry.

46. Consult your gut. It takes 20-minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you are full.

47. The banquet is the first bite. It tastes the best. The 10th cookie doesnʼt taste any better than the first.

48. Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.

49. Buy smaller plates and glasses. Youʼll eat and drink less.

50. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper. Your biggest meal should be your first.

51. Eat meals. Not snacks.

52. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts? Youʼll eat fewer of those rather than an entire bag of cookies or a carton of ice cream.

53. Donʼt get your fuel from the same place your car does. Gas station “food” = high in salt, sugar, fat.

54. Do all your eating at a table. Take your time. Eat mindfully. Make eating an event to be enjoyed.

55. Try not to eat alone. You will eat less with company than standing over the kitchen sink by yourself.

56. Treat treats as treats. Enjoy goodies in moderation and buy only the highest quality.

57. Leave something on your plate.

58. Plant a vegetable garden if you have the space, a window box if you donʼt.

59. Cook. Youʼll eat better and cheaper.

60. Break the rules once in a while. All things in moderation. Including moderation.


  1. These are fantastic tips! I'm going to start looking at the number of ingredients in my food. I don't know if I've ever bought boxed food with 5 or fewer ingredients!

  2. I think people can pervert some of these recipes to make them work to an unhealthy diet. my grandmother used to say "everything in moderation" and drank her idea of a moderate 2 hard drinks a day. my great-grandmother? she wouldn't know a sea veggie and I love 'em. Her recipes have been passed down to me and one is purely lard, sugar, and flour.

  3. LOL! Yes, I guess you can make some pretty unhealthy stuff with less than 5 ingredients. :)