Rules of Thumb for Eating “Food” from Michael Pollan*



  1. Eat food and not food products – If it comes in a bag, box or can, it is highly processed, avoid it.
  2. Don’t eat anything your great grand mother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  3. Avoid foods products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup
  4. Avoid food products that make health claims.  When Whole Grain Lucky Charms starts making health claims, it’s time to start ignoring health claims.  When was the last time you saw a health claim on an apple?  But there they sit, ever so quiet, in the produce section!
  5. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. – This is where you find the meat department, the dairy and produce sections.  The middle of the store is where the processed food products are located, i.e. anything in a bag, box or can, often seen with FDA approved health claims. 
  6. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible – Seek out locally grown organic food, picked at the peak of freshness.  Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program.  Buy food at farmers markets. Reconnect with the land and the growers of your food.  You will be reducing your environmental carbon footprint and reducing the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers on the land.  Growing food commercially in this country consumes 20% of our nations’ fossil fuels (fossil fuel based fertilizers/pesticides, farm equipment machinery, transportation/shipping, and processing), MORE than what we put into our cars! 
  7. Eat local foods that are in season:  Do you really need to eat asparagus flown in from Argentina and grapes flown in from Chile in the wintertime?  These foods are “soaked” in fossil fuels…Again, reduce your carbon footprint!
  8. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves (and much fewer seeds) - Seeds are storehouses for omega-6 fats, while leaves are high in omega-3 fats.  The average American consumes 10-30 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats.  Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory, pro-cancer, pro-arthritis.  Omega-3’s do the  opposite. 
  9. Pay more for food.  – In 1960 Americans spent 17.5% of their income on food and 5.2% on healthcare.  Since then, those numbers have reversed:  Spending on food has fallen to 9.9% and healthcare has climbed to 16% of national income.  One can’t help but think that these parameters are linked together.
  10. Eat less – There is no money in the message “eat less” in our society.  Our agricultural system for over 100 years has devoted its energies to quantity and price rather than quality.  Dollar for dollar, you get more calorie bang for you buck in the snack aisle, than in the produce section. 
  11. Eat meals together, not alone. – We are snacking more and eating fewer meals together, which leads to over consumption, loss of culture, and a lack of social family time together.
  12. Do all your eating at your table.  Your office desk is not a table.  One fifth of our meals are eaten in the car and now 50% of our eating is done out of the home. 
  13. Eat slowly, consult your gut.  – Your sense of fullness or satiety is a slow signal process from your stomach to your brain, taking about 20 minutes.   Don’t rely on your eyes to tell you when your full. i.e., “My plate is empty.”  Listen to your gut.  The French are better at this than us.  When researchers asked French diners how they knew when to stop eating, they replied, “When I feel full.”  When Americans were asked the same question they said:  “when my plate is clean or when I run out.”
  14. Cook and, if you can, plant a garden - Food marketers have for many years successfully portrayed cooking as drudgery.  It really does not take very long to cook a nutritious meal from scratch.  Reconnect with the land by growing your own fresh vegetables and fruits.  Teach your children that a carrot is a root that comes from the ground and not a machine lathed “bullet” that comes in a plastic bag!



*Michael Pollan is the author of:  “In Defense of Food, an Eater’s Manifesto” and “The Omnivores Dilemma.”  Both books are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and are REQUIRED reading for all omnivores!