I have mentioned before, but when my wellness journey first started over a decade ago, it was simply buying food and cooking instead of eating out. And when I did eat out, making better choices. A few years into that journey, food quality took over. I credit one thing – the documentary Food Inc. If you have not watched this, it is definitely a must watch!
One of the people who worked very closely with this film is Michael Pollan. He is an author, journalist and activist and completely opened my eyes to the world of food quality. He has written many books, but one of the best (and shortest) is a book called Food Rules. He simplifies how to make better choices with 64 rules. (sounds like a lot but bear with me).
The main overarching philosophy is Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much. The book is broken down into three sections diving into these three strategies with a bit more detail.
I am not going to dissect the entire book but wanted to share a few highlights to get your started on your journey.
My favorite five ‘rules’ that will make a drastic improvement in your health.
- Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
I am a child of the 80s. I put absolutely no blame on parents of that generation. Households often moved to having two working parents and convenience food was becoming easily attainable. (Oh TV dinners, remember those ?!). With convenience food came a lot of additives and chemicals introduced to make products last. When our great (or great great depending on your age) parents would eat food it was with simple ingredients. They probably still had dessert and ‘fun foods’, as we call them in our home, but it was likely made with wholesome recognizable ingredients. Margarine vs. butter anyone?
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
If you can’t find the ingredients and keep it in your pantry, that means it was likely made in a chemical plant and one your body could probably do without.
- Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
I am all about ‘embracing’ the times and we certainly eat some packaged foods. When we do eat packaged foods, we try to find products that have real ingredients (again ones we could keep in our pantry if so desired) and the ingredient list isn’t a paragraph long.
Michael Pollen states “The specific number you adopt is arbitrary, but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is.”
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third grader cannot pronounce.
This likely goes hand in hand with #2. If your third grader can’t pronounce it, it likely is something your body shouldn’t have in it.
My kids are still little, but I feel it is never too early to start talking about ingredients. I recently read them the ingredients in a ‘said cookie’ and asked them to tell me what they thought was a real food ingredient and what wasn’t real (we went one by one). Then I did the same with a ‘better quality cookie’ and let them decide which one they wanted. They chose the one with real ingredients, likely because they knew what they were. Let’s not underestimate what our littles can learn, even at an early age.
- Avoid food products with the word ‘lite’ or terms ‘low fat’ or ‘nonfat’ in their names.
This is also at no fault to people of that decade, but man on man why can’t the ‘low fat is better than full fat’ saga die.
According to the book, “low and non fat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss of flavor.” Additionally, “since the low fat campaign began in the late 1970s, American actually have been eating more than 500 additional calories per day, most of them in the form of refined carbohydrates like sugar. The average male is seventeen pounds heavier and the average female nineteen pound heavier than in the late 1970s”.
**And to note this book was written in 2009 – so who knows what shape we are in now, but imagine it is worse!
If you can do two things for me today, here they are.
- Have awareness and just keep being open to learning and listening!
- Start reading labels, even if you don’t make any change in the products you buy because it is simply too overwhelming. Starting somewhere will make an impact, I promise!
As a bonus, if you are up for it seriously check out the book on Amazon or find it at your local library (and snag that documentary also!)
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