In the Unhappy Meals article that we read last week, Michael Pollan
explains why the scientific way of understanding food – studying one nutrient at
a time and breaking food down to its individual components (carbohydrates,
proteins, fats, etc.) - doesn’t really work. As we read, he offered up three simple
rules for eaters: #1. Eat food. #2. Not too much. #3. Mostly plants. As I told
you guys last week, I don’t buy into all of this. I eat meat most every day,
though it is usually from a moose, caribou, salmon, or halibut. Still, I like a
hamburger and some of you guys give me a hard time about my Friday morning
donuts and my constant cookie cravings. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to
think about how we eat and how those decisions interact with the body systems
that we have been studying. We’ll be looking at two sets of “food rules” here –
one group of 20 rules that random people submitted to Michael Pollan, and
another group of 64 that Pollan himself wrote which grew out of his more
simplified three rules that we previously discussed. Enjoy!
Go to Mr. Mason’s website and follow the link labeled “Food – 20 Rules to
Eat By”. Scroll through the 20 rules and actually consider what each means.
1. Which of these rules do you like the most? Do you think you could
actually live by this rule? Explain.
2. Which rule do you most disagree with? Why? Is it really not good
advice, or would it just be too hard to follow?
3. Give me feedback on at least one other rule. This can be anything at
all – one that made you laugh, your 2nd favorite, one you’d like to
follow but just can’t give up the food that is involved – whatever, just
be sure to give me 2-3 sentences of real thought.
Read the following 64 rules. Yes, all of them. I stayed up late on Sunday
night to type them out for you, so please actually read through them. As you
go, make a note of the ones you agree with, the ones you disagree with, and
those that you don’t understand. There are questions at the end.
Part I – What Should I Eat?
1. Eat food.
2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would
keep in the pantry.
4. Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
5. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar or sweetener listed among the
top three ingredients.
6. Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.
7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a 3rd grader cannot
8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
9. Avoid food products with the words “-oid” or “lite”, or the terms “low-fat”
or “non-fat” in their names.
10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they’re not.
11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
12. Shop the peripheries (edges) of the supermarket and stay out of the
13. Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
14. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or
growing in nature.
15. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can.
16. Buy your snacks at the farmers’ market.
17. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.
18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a
19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
21. It’s not food if it is called by the same name in every language. (Think
Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles.)
Part II – What Kind of Food Should I Eat?
22. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
23. Treat meat as a flavoring or a special occasion food.
24. “Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better
than eating what stands on two legs [birds], which is better than eating
what stands on four legs [cows, pigs, etc.].” (Chinese proverb)
25. Eat your colors.
26. Drink the spinach water.
27. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well. (Cows that have eaten
grass, for example, instead of corn. Or moose. Or wild salmon.)
28. If you have the space, buy a freezer.
29. Eat like an omnivore.
30. Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.
31. Eat wild foods when you can.
32. Don’t overlook the oily little fishes.
33. Eat some foods that have been pre-digested by bacteria or fungi. (yogurt,
sauerkraut, soy sauce, etc.)
34. Sweeten and salt your food yourself.
35. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature.
36. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
37. “The wider the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.” (Jewish and Italian
38. Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have been traditionally stone-
39. Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself.
40. Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the
41. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
42. Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism.
43. Have a glass of wine with dinner. (It should be noted here that he is not
advocating alcohol consumption. Red wine has certain chemicals in it that
reduce the risk of heart disease. That being said, it is not absolutely
necessary…so have milk instead. )
Part III – How Should I Eat?
44. Pay more, eat less.
45. …eat less.
46. Stop eating before you’re full.
47. Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored.
48. Consult your gut.
49. Eat slowly.
50. “The banquet is in the first bite.” (This means that the first bites are the
51. Spend as much time enjoying the meal as you took to prepare it.
52. Buy smaller plates and glasses.
53. Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds.
54. “Breakfast is like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.”
55. Eat meals.
56. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods.
57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
58. Do all your eating at a table.
59. Try not to eat alone.
60. Treat treats as treats.
61. Leave something on your plate.
62. Plant a vegetable garden if you have space, a window-box if you don’t.
64. Break the rules once in a while.
Task #2 Questions
1. What are your three favorite rules? For each one, tell me why you like
it. Your reasons can certainly vary.
2. Which two rules do you think would be very difficult to follow, even
though you agree that they are good advice? Why?
3. Which two rules do you completely disagree with? I’m talking about
sheer ridiculousness, you’ve got to be kidding me, that is terrible
advice kind of rules. Why?
4. Give me at least ONE food rule of your own. Ideally this is something
you at least try to follow, but it can be something you would like to do
but haven’t tried yet. Extra credit may be awarded for multiple rules
or really, really good ones.