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Michael Pollan's Food Rules List An Eater's Manual

Updated on August 3, 2010
Photo courtesy of karimian's at Flickr
Photo courtesy of karimian's at Flickr

"Food Rules: An Eater's Manual" is the latest book by Michael Pollan. Pollan is a Knight Professor of Journalism at University of California -Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and he is also the Director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism. In addition to teaching, he lectures widely on food, agriculture, and gardening but it is for his insight and philosophy on our food and diet that he has become a near household name leading to him being named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2010.

His two books prior to ”Food Rules”,“In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” have earned him many accolades. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was one of New York Times ten best books of 2006 and it also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award for best food writing, and made it through to the final of for the National Book Critics Circle.

Pollan has summed up his philosophy in just seven simple words “"Eat food -not too much mostly plants." and “Food Rules” gives us 64 rules in just 139 pages by which to live this philosophy.

So why should we follow the 64 rules laid down by Pollan in the 139 pages of “Food Rules” to adapt our shopping and eating habits.

  • Americans and others who eat the typical “Western” diet high in processed foods, meat, added fat, sugar and refined grains suffer from the “Western” diseases of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • People who consume traditional diets, free of the highly processed foods that line our supermarket shelves, experience these diseases at much, much lower rates.
  • As countries with traditional cuisine have become more Westernized and exposed to our way of eating they have become increasingly likely to suffer from the Western diseases.
  • Those people who turn away from our Western eating habits often experience a rapid and significant improvement in their health.

Are there any surprises in the 64 rules – perhaps one or two but what these rules do is us provide a common sense approach to eating and shopping which many have said sounds just like the sort of sound guidance that their Mother or Grandmother would provide.

To give you some examples here are twelve of Pollan’s Food Rules

  1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
  2. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar or sweetener listed among the top three ingredients
  3. Stop eating before you're full and try to eat only to 67 to 80 per cent capacity
  4. Don’t get your “fuel” from the same place your car does
  5. Do all your eating at a table, not at a desk, while working, watching television or driving
  6. Keep healthy things on hand if you need to snack between meals
  7. Eat food cooked by humans, not corporations
  8. Buy a freezer
  9. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well
  10. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk
  11. Wherever possible buy fresh food at farmers' markets
  12. Break the Rules once in a while (My favorite!!!!)

If you found this article interesting you may also enjoy reading the series that I've written reviewing some of the more popular weight loss and lifestyle programs.


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