Monday, January 16, 2012

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

I first heard Michael Pollan speak when he was a guest on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."  It seems like such a simple statement, but when you really delve into it, they're words to live by.

Salad - Its What's for Dinner

"Eat food."  Not as dumb as it sounds.  There's a big difference between food and "all these edible, food-like substances" (MP) that you can buy at the grocery store.  "Food" is fruit, veggies, fish, whole grains, meat, milk, eggs, nuts, etc.  While shopping, its usually easy to see the difference between food and food-like substances.  This doesn't mean that all packaged food is bad - be a label reader.  Could you feasibly make the "food" that's in your grocery cart in your own kitchen?  Do the ingredients sound like they belong in a chemistry set?  I'm certainly not perfect - I'll eat Kraft Singles (aka processed cheese-food), chicken nuggets, instant pudding, etc on occasion, but if I ask myself "is this food or a food-like substance" I often make better choices.

Healthy Meals

"Not too much."  Eat like almost every other country on earth eats - stop eating when you're no longer hungry.  Don't wait until your brain tells you you're full.  I've found that if I serve smaller portions and have to physically get up and go to the kitchen to get more, I'll often think twice about whether I'm actually still hungry.

Boulder Farmer's Market, Take 2

"Mostly plants."  Plants are good for you.  For the past year, I've made a point to serve a meal without meat/fish at least once a week.  I also try to make the veggie the largest portion on the plate, and the meat (if I'm serving it) the smallest.

Best Dinner in a Long Time

My resolution for 2012:  make better food choices.  I've gotten pretty good at doing this at home, but I really need to improve at work, at restaurants, while I'm out shopping and a Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell would really hit the spot...  What is your 2012 resolution?

Great Side Dishes

More advice from Michael Pollan below:

Michael Pollan's 7 Rules for Eating
  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4.  Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.
MP's 4 Myths About Healthy Eating
  • Myth #1: Food is a delivery vehicle for nutrients. What really matters isn't broccoli but its fiber and antioxidants. If we get that right, we get our diet right. Foods kind of get in the way.
  • Myth #2: We need experts to tell us how to eat. Nutrients are invisible and mysterious. "It is a little like religion," Pollan said. "If a powerful entity is invisible, you need a priesthood to mediate your relation with food."
  • Myth #3: The whole point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health. "You are either improving or ruining your health when you eat -- that is a very American idea," Pollan says. "But there are many other reasons to eat food: pleasure, social community, identity, and ritual. Health is not the only thing going on on our plates."
  • Myth #4: There are evil foods and good foods. "At any given time there is an evil nutrient we try to drive like Satan from the food supply -- first it was saturated fats, then it was trans fat," Pollan says. "Then there is the evil nutrient's doppelganger, the blessed nutrient. If we get enough of that we will be healthy and maybe live forever. It's funny through history how the good and bad guys keep changing."
Read more about these myths here.  Read even more about Michael Pollan here, here, or here.  Or a ton of other places.

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