Food rules

I like to have a monthly goal. Nothing meaningful. Just stuff like – ‘this month I will wear a different pair of earings every day’ or ‘this month I will use every one of my handbags’. I don’t know why, it’s just something random I do.

But for August, I’ve decided to try to do something a bit more challenging and a bit more worthwhile. I’m going to try to follow Michael Pollan’s eating manifesto.

In his book, Food rules: an eaters manual, Michael talks about how somewhere along the production line, food got really complicated, really refined and really unhealthy. It’s one of those books where you think to yourself, yes I know this, I’ve heard this before, it’s all common sense. However, it’s also one of those books that completely changes your perception about food, and in particular about the evil food industry.

These are his top tips for healthy eating:
1) Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise.
Michael suggests imagining your great grandmother at the supermarket. Imagine her picking up something like drinking yoghurt and not having a clue what it could be.

There are now thousands of food products our ancestors wouldn’t recognise. And did they get exposed to the same chemical additives or to the plastic they are packaged in? No. And did they have the same kind of heart disease and cancer problems? No.

2) Avoid foods containing ingredients you wouldn’t keep in the pantry.
Ethoxylated diglycerides? Cellulose? Xanthan gum? If we wouldn’t cook with them, why let other use these ingredients to cook for us?

Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven health hazard, many haven’t been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided.

3) Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
What does it mean for food to ‘go bad’? It usually means the fungi, bacteria, insects and rodents who we compete with for nutrients have gotten to it before we did.

Food processing began as a way to extend the shelf life of food by protecting it from these competitors. This is often done by making food less appealing or by removing nutrients,  that can turn food rancid, like omega 3 fatty acids.

4) Treat meat as food for a special occasion.
‘Flexitarians’ – people who eat meat a couple of times a week are just as healthy as vegetarians. But there’s evidence that the more meat in your diet, the greater the risk of heart disease and cancer. It could be the saturated fat, it’s a specific type of protein. Or it could be because meat is pushing vegetables off the plate. So making sure you have the right balance between meat and vegetables is important. 

5) Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature
In nature, sugars almost always come package with fibre, which slows their absorption and give you a sense of satiety before you’ve ingested too many kilojoules. That’s why you’re always better off eating fruit rather than drinking juice.

6)Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself.
So apparently there’s nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods and pastries every now and again. Phew. But food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard to make treats really cheap and easy. Which means we can have them every day.  Michael gives the example that if we made all the hot chips we ate, we’d be exhausted from the effort of peeling so many potatos and we’d eat them less often. Same goes for chips, cakes, pies and ice cream.

So I’m going to try to only enjoy these treats if I can physically see the person who has prepared them.

Kind of simple really…