“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” In those seven simple words, celebrated writer and activist, Michael Pollan cuts through all the confusion surrounding nutrition and sums up almost everything you need to know about healthy eating.
The premise of Pollan’s mantra is simple: until recently, people relied on food traditions instead of nutrition facts to guide their eating habits. All meals were home-cooked, made from fresh seasonal ingredients, and families and friends enjoyed them together sitting down at the table.
Fast forward to today, when the world has become dependent on what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances” – highly processed food that is produced not by nature, but in a lab – and eating meals has been replaced by scarfing down pre-packaged snacks on the go. The paradox is that the more we worry about nutrition and dieting, the less healthy we seem to become.
In Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, Pollan gives solid bits of wisdom and advice on how to adopt a saner approach towards food. This handbook of sorts provides simple common-sense rules, one on each page, that include such pearls as:
Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. It’s not food if it’s called the same thing in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.) Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds. Try spending as much time to enjoy the meal as it took to prepare it. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.
A new edition of Food Rules, published just a few months ago, is beautifully illustrated by artist Maira Kalman and includes nineteen new rules submitted by Pollan’s readers. Broken down into three logical sections that explore Pollan’s famous mantra, this pretty book is a straightforward introduction to his food philosophy and makes for a fun holiday gift.
Readers who’ve already devoured Pollan’s previous books, however, might find Food Rules lacking. Rather than exposing startling truths about food politics, Big Ag, and why we eat the way we do, Food Rules is a simple handbook that reiterates in simple, everyday terms much of what Pollan has already said about healthy eating. If you’re expecting another The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, you may be disappointed.
Yet as people struggle to eat better and reclaim their health, Food Rules remains an important book. Maira Kalman sums it up in the introduction of the newest edition:
“What do we want? To be healthy. To celebrate and to love and live life to the fullest. So here comes Michael Pollan with this little (monumental) book. A humanistic and smart book that describes a sane world of happy eating. It asks us gently, to hit the reset button on manufactured food and go back in time.”