Chad Warner's Reviews > Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

Food Rules by Michael Pollan
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's review
May 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: health, non-fiction
Recommended to Chad by: Derek Wolters
Recommended for: health-conscious, nutritionally minded
Read in July, 2017

A collection of 64 short, memorable rules (or "personal policies") for healthy eating, given in everyday language. The rules fit within three incredibly simple, yet oft-ignored, over-arching rules: "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much." These rules are "designed to help you eat real food in moderation" and "substantially get off the Western diet."

There’s almost no scientific research or data presented in the book. Pollan admits this, and says that humans haven’t needed nutrition science to survive the past several millennia, and neither do we. However, he does refer readers to his book In Defense of Food for the science behind his rules in this book.

I agreed with most of Pollan’s rules, but I disagreed with a few in the Not too much chapter. Rule 46, “Stop eating before you’re full”, and Rule 53, “Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds”, don’t work for me. If I don’t eat until I’m full (or beyond) at least every few meals, I get so hungry that I feel faint. I have a high metabolism (and have been at a healthy weight all my adult life).

I also have an issue with Rule 61, “Leave something on your plate”, and the saying, “better to go to waste than to waist.” If you need to throw food away to keep from overeating, you have a discipline problem. Wasting food is also a slap in the face to the millions of starving people around the world. I have no problem with leaving something on your plate; just save it to eat later, don't throw it away.

I liked most of the rules, and plan to follow my favorites:

Eat food: eat real, whole foods with simple ingredients that have been minimally processed.
Rule 2: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Avoid artificial foodlike substances.
Rule 3: Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
Rule 9: Avoid food products with the words “lite,” “low-fat,” or “nonfat.” The fat is normally replaced with salt and sugar. You're better off eating the real thing in moderation.
Rule 13: Eat only foods that will eventually rot. Real food goes bad.
Rule 14: Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.
Rule 19: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

Mostly plants
Rule 22: Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
Rule 24 The fewer the legs, the better. Eat, in decreasing amounts, plants, fungus, and fish, then poultry, then mammals.
Rule 37: "The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead." Eat whole grains, not white, refined grains.
Rule 38: Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have traditionally been stone-ground. Oils: olive, sesame, palm fruit, peanut.

Not too much
Rule 44: Pay more, eat less. Choose quality over quantity. “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor.”
Rule 54: "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper." Decrease the size of your meals throughout the day.
Rule 55: Eat meals. Eat full meals and reduce snacking.
Rule 56: Limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods. Fruits, veggies, nuts.
Rule 63: Cook. Cook your own food to control your diet.

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Reading Progress

07/23 marked as: read

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