Saturday, December 20, 2008

Michael Pollan's 12 Food Rules

I've just been watching a couple of lectures by food writer Michael Pollan on food. Good stuff. Here are his 12 rules for healthy eating:

Pollan 12 Food Rules:

1. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
2. Avoid foods containing ingredients you can’t pronounce.
3. Don’t eat anything that wouldn’t eventually rot.
4. Avoid food products that carry health claims.
5. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle.
6. Better yet, buy food somewhere else: the farmer’s market or CSA.
7. Pay more, eat less.
8. Eat a wide diversity of species.
9. Eat food from animals that eat grass.
10. Cook and, if you can, grow some of your own food.
11. Eat meals and eat them only at tables.
12. Eat deliberately, with other people whenever possible, and always with pleasure.

Apparently there are some folks out there who are decrying Pollan as "new-agey" etc. because he's advocating eating less processed foods and more fresh vegetables. That's pathetic.

For anyone who doesn't know me, I have a raft of food allergies -- probably because of a) a genetic predisposition (grandparents on both sides with food allergies); b) being a preemie -- I had food allergies as an infant; and c) being exposed to defoliants when I was in grade school and living near crops that had these used on them (cotton and soybeans). I'm allergic to corn, soy, wheat, citrus, some nuts, and a few other odds and ends like mangos and bananas. The first three items -- corn, soy, and wheat -- mean that I have to read the labels on everything I eat. This means that I'm very aware of how much of this stuff, as well as other chemicals and non-food ingredients, go into our food. So I don't eat a lot of processed food, as you can imagine.

This also makes it an iffy proposition to eat on the road. Take a meal at a chain restaurant. Has the meat been marinated / injected with something containing corn syrup or soybean oil to make a cheap meat cut appear more flavorful? That salad dressing -- it almost certainly has either corn syrup or soybean oil or both in it. Never mind the croutons, which are obvious*. Steamed veggies are usually fine... I can have a baked potato -- but is that real butter, or margerine? Forget about dessert! Well, maybe the creme brulee, but that's more high-end than most restaurants go. (*We won't go into a full-scale rant here about the waitress who didn't know that pasta is made from wheat.)

This isn't a pity party, btw -- this is just part of my routine, and I handle it pretty well; I provide for myself and don't make a fuss, usually bringing food with me if I'm not certain where I'm going to eat. It did, however, make a recent business trip to NYC, well, interesting -- the lunch provided at the meeting was something like sandwiches and pasta salad. I was able to duck out and get something else to eat, fortunately.

I'm glad that Michael Pollan isn't a "food Nazi" -- he doesn't tell people to cut out the processed foods completely; people should relax and eat their friends' cookies/treats at parties, etc. He tells his audience to be more aware of them, though, and to cut back on the overall amount of that stuff they eat.

I am hoping, however, that this emphasis on fewer processed foods and more "real foods" -- unprocessed, whole ingredients -- results in a better world for people like me, as people demand less adulterated food. Even a salad dressing made from simple herbs, olive oil and vinegar, with no soybean oil or corn syrup in it, would be a huge improvement! (Why do they have to add that stuff, anyhow?)