fourteen rules for eating by Michael Pollan (and me)

Posted on August 30th, 2011

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

In seven words, Michael Pollan succinctly sums up the best way to eat. He’s famous for this mantra, from his superb book In Defense of Food. It sticks, hey!?

                            photo via Cannelle et Vanille

 Michael has just released his latest book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual in which he lays out the most deadset simple rules for eating that don’t tax willpower and brainpower. And they work. For health and for the planet. Here’s some of his highlights:

some tips from Michael:

1. if it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.

2. when shopping in a supermarket, shop the periphery of the store and avoid the centre aisles laden with processed foods.

3. avoid sugar… (and) note, too, that refined flour is hardly different from sugar once it gets into the body.

4. avoid foods advertised on television…and food products that make health claims. No natural food is simply a collection of nutrients, and a processed food stripped of its natural goodness to which nutrients are then added is no bargain for your body.

5. cook. Cooking for yourself takes back control of your diet.

6. don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does. Don’t shop for your food at a petrol station.

7. “No snacks, no seconds, no sweets – except on days that start with S”.

8. eat at a table. Not at your work desk, or in front of the tv, or while you’re driving. If you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating, you’re likely to eat more.

9.  don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.

my tips:

10. choose the food with the least number of ingredients. when comparing, say, mayonnaise, in the supermarket, choose the one with the shortest ingredients panel.

11. eat the whole food. Don’t take out yolks or the fat. It’s the yolks and fat that contain the enzyme that breaks down the egg or the cafe latte in your stomach, providing for better metabolism.

12. for similar reasons, don’t drink fruit juice. It’s the fibre in fruit that enables us to handle the high sugar content. I’ve said this before, a glass of apple juice contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar. So wrong.

13. eat food with less than about 6g/100g of sugar in it. I read the sugar content before I read the fat or calorie content.

14. crowd out. This is my personal mantra. Don’t say “don’t” (to “bad foods”), simply say “more please” to the good stuff. Eat as much good stuff as you can stomach and then allow yourself some crap…(if you can fit it in).

Do you have a favourite food rule that doesn’t use up too much brainpower?

 

 

 

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  • toni

    Don’t drink your calories/kilojoules…eat them!

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  • http://womanincredible.com Kat Eden

    I love Michael Pollan … one of his other rules I picked up somewhere was ‘eat until you are seven tenths full, and no more’. This is my personal fave, as even when I choose completely clean and wholesome foods my weakness is I just – keep – going!

    I’m definitely a ‘live to eater’ rather than ‘eat to live’ … but truthfully there is no greater sense of pride (for me) than getting to the next meal feeling actually hungry rather than still semi-full!

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  • Ivy

    My fav tip is to eat 1-3 teaspoons of coconut oil every day with my main-meals, and no snacking. It does amazing things for your gut-health, metabolism, skin, hair and hormones. And did I mention I also lost 11 kilos of fat since adding more avocado and coconut oil to my diet?

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    Tarryne Reply:

    Eating coconut oil? added to your food or just as is?

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    both! cook with it, add it raw to smoothies and shakes.

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  • Tash

    Great tips by both Michael and you! I’m interested by what you say about fruit juice being so high sugar as I noticed in EYS on Thursday night that the nutritionist recommended pineapple and lemon juice to the featured lady…would that not be the high sugar?
    Love your blog Sarah x

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    Dani Reply:

    As an aside, while fresh fruit juice obviosuly contains fructose, most commercially prepared and processed juices also contain extra added sugar to ensure consistency of taste. Personally, I love fruit in my green smoothies & like to chuck whole bits of fruit (like peeled oranges) into my them rather than juice, but I get that not everyone is into it!

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    Monkey Mia Reply:

    Agree, Dani! Green juices are awesome if you make them yourself. If people knew what was in Boost Juices, especially their “low-fat sorbet” which I have heard their staff refer to as pure frozen sugar… eep! Diabetes in a cup!

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    Jemma Reply:

    I really want to start making green smoothies, but not sure what to add to them to sweeten without using fruit (I’m off fructose at present)…yoghurt and stevia perhaps? Cinnamon? Any recipes appreciated! Thanks.

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    Monkey Mia Reply:

    Coconut water perhaps? Or some low-fructose fruits, like berries? I’ve tried those two before and like. xx

    Jemma Reply:

    Thanks Mia! Will experiment with your suggestions…

    Lindy Reply:

    Jemma, I frequent Teresa Cutter’s (“The healthy Chef”) website for her beautiful, healthy, simple, delicious recipes. She has some smoothie recipes and everything else in between! Her 80/20 book is fab too. teresacutter.com

    Jemma Reply:

    Thanks Lindy! :)

  • Georgie

    Don’t eat after 7pm
    You’ll sleep soundly, digest the bulk of the meal before you become horizontal, and wake up feeling refreshed. This is especially true of children in my experience – if my kid gets fed after this time, she’s shitty all night and hard to wake up in the morning.

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  • Josephine

    What great tips from everyone. I also swear by the coconut oil. I’ve become addicted but have yet to lose weight on it, alas but it makes me feel amazing. I’ve been following the Dukan diet and lost zip on it. I think it’s time to go back to plant food. I recently purchased Mimi Kirk’s raw food book and that is also amazing. Loads of good tips and she is incredible for a woman in her seventies. Actually, Mimi’s probably my favourite tip. Thanks for the great post. x

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    Steph Reply:

    I did Dukan at the beginning of the year when I was living in London…lost 1kg and ended up sick. Came back to Oz and have resumed a plant heavy diet and exercising and have lost 2kgs in the past month. Slow and steady. Dukan does work but you feel like shit! Go back to plant foods and you’ll feel much better. x

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  • Shalome

    I love, love, love Michael Pollan’s advice. I’ve just read his book and watched a seminar he gave (as part of my Institute of Integrative Nutrition prep) and everything in it resonated with me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-t-7lTw6mA

    I love the concept of asking the elders of each community how, what, where and with whom they traditionally ate. So many cultural aspects to ‘eating’ that are not about food x

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  • Sharon

    I always think if you want to eat cake or biscuits etc. then make them yourself. Make them from whole good ingredients, butter, eggs, etc. And then share them with friends and family and enjoy them. If you go to the trouble of making something yourself you will enjoy it more. Especially when shared.
    Thanks for the great post Sarah.

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    mum of four Reply:

    Oh Sharon, I couldn’t agree more! With four constantly hungry and growing boys, yes I admit it, I do bake for them – at least twice per week – but I make it all from scratch myself and know exactly what is in it. Have you ever seen the ingredient list for a simple Madeira cake from the supermarket… frightening… I can’t believe people eat this stuff AND feed it to their children.
    I do believe that it is all about balance though – my boys love their fruit & vegies too – and I never just serve up cake/biscuits on their own – always with a piece of fruit, a tub of yoghurt, or some vegie sticks

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  • Rosie

    I love all of these tips, especially Michael Pollan’s. I loved his book, In Defense of Food. I too take coconut oil, 1 teaspoon, twice a day mainly in my green tea. I’ve been taking it for 2 months now and while I’m sure it’s working it’s magic, I do tend to feel a little nauseas 1 – 2 hours afterwards (detox effects?). But in all I agree we need more of the good fats in our diet.

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    Tarryne Reply:

    Doesnt it make the tea oily? Also, have you considered it might be the tea? I always feel faintly ill if I drink my greet tea on an empty stomach.

    Clearly i need to look into coconut oil!

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    Rosie Reply:

    Um…yep it does make the tea oily! But I don’t mind this. Thanks for suggestion of green tea making me feel ill. I’ve been having it for a while so I’m not sure it’s that. I might try adding it to my porridge instead. I will keep perserving. . Maybe my gut has a number of issues to heal! :-)

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    Rosie Reply:

    Oops! I mean’t I’ll keep persevering not perserving! Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong…

    Sally Reply:

    Yes Rosie, try adding it to porridge, this is what I’ve been doing for the past few months and it adds sweetness to the porridge and tastes amazing. With a teaspoon of flax meal and some yoghurt and maybe a pear cut up it’s the world’s best brekky. Yum.

    Rosie Reply:

    Thanks Sally. Yum, that’s a great idea!

  • Monkey Mia

    In addition to cooking for yourself, I would say rely on spices for your flavour, not artificial junk or sugary sauces. My latest favourite lunch is warm quinoa seasoned with garlic, chili and onions, with raw salad on top, a dash of avocado oil and some protein like nuts or eggs. YUM. You could probably eat this every meal for the rest of your life and be quite happy.

    And even within the “eat plants and protein” rule that I follow, I’ve found its best to experiment with the proportions. I dont need much fat or meat, but a little is vital, in addition to a mostly plant-y diet. Eat kangaroo and fish, they are amazing for your health.

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  • Mia

    Sarah, how did your date go last night? Hope he was more polite than the last guy and you had more in common and to talk about that Jennifer Aniston movies :)

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    Leila Reply:

    You are a bad tease SW. You post a comment on FB about your dinner date and leave us all in suspense 24 hrs later. No one is interested in the details, just whether it was good or bad.

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    Monkey Mia Reply:

    Actually I’m kind of interested in the details :D

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    Sam Reply:

    Haha, I agree! If you’re going to put a public comment like that out there for all to read, surely the right thing to do is provide an update. Otherwise, perhaps think twice before posting next time.

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  • Alex

    Shopping the peripheries is one of my favourites! I can’t afford to buy all organic, drink raw milk, and take lots of expensive probiotics but I still feel fantastic when 80% of my diet is veggies, grass fed/free range meat, organic dairy, whole grains, some fruit, and plenty of water. I read a ton of food blogs so it’s also important for me to not fall into the trap of feeling guilty/comparing myself with ‘perfect’ eaters. There are always more things I could do to eat better but when I compare my diet now to what I lived off 2 years ago I realise I’m actually doing great. Guilt is not an ingredient I want on my plate!

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  • Jane

    Agree 100% about the guilt Alex!

    My tip is this – grow greens! Economical, they take up very little garden space (some big pots of tubs) and are really easy to grow. Never buy a bag of spinach – only to have half of it go soft in the crisper after half a day – again! You just pick what you need on the day. I think the health benefits of eating live food straight out of the ground is immeasurable!

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    Victoria Reply:

    Also freshly harvested fruit and veg from your own garden has a lot more nutrition in it than store bought. Once picked veggies lose their nutrients very fast. And for the broccoli etc to keep fresh like it does for weeks on end they must treat it with something. The soil you plant in neds to be nutrient rich and you can achieve this through various organic composting etc

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  • Sarah

    10,12 and 13 were my favourites…except, where are they?! :)

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    Lou Reply:

    Ohhh, I tried tip # 12 at lunchtime and it was amazing. My friends are still talking about it. Highly recommend to everyone! hahahhaha

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  • Jemma

    * Eat your protein first (or prioitise it on the plate) and chew LOTS
    * Drink at least 2 litres of water per day and hot lemon water in the morning
    * Choose alkaline foods where possible and add cayenne pepper to EVERYTHING
    * Have plenty of protein at breakfast to keep blood sugar stable – eggs are great raw in a smoothie or cooked in an omlette
    * Plan ahead: always have healthy snacks in your bag so you don’t get caught hungry and far from healthy food
    * boiled eggs make great, portable snacks when you know you’re going to be on the run. So does a jar of organic raw nutspread and a teaspoon in your handbag
    * When you first feel hunger, drink two glasses of water and see how you feel
    * When craving sweets, drink a coconut (or two) and eat the flesh.
    * Always eat fruit with added fat and protein – cheese, nuts, nutspread, raw cream.

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  • Julie

    - For me at least it helps to eat my protein first
    - Find herbs and spices that support you and work for you, for some people that’s warming spices, for others it’s cooling…for me is turmeric, ginger, allspice, …all on the warming side of things
    - Some people respond differently to food groups in certain seasons or weather, figure it out by eating simple for a little while, so you can figure out what works and what doesn’t…
    - Eat with the seasons

    …but most of all, put love and taste in your food and enjoy

    Love, Jules

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  • Julie

    Oh

    …and fast, from time to time, it’s quite healing to eat a little bit less or not at all sometimes, but break a fast with something healing and grounding, not by snacking, otherwise it doesn’t help much…

    Also, go easy in the morning, first thing I do is water and tea…food comes later

    Love, Jules

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  • Jem

    “I have chatty halitosis man next to me!”…I’m sure you have lovely breath too after eating your egg/anchovie/ tuna combo on a plane.

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  • Alysa

    I would highly recommend following a diabetes low-GI diet. I was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes a few months prior to giving birth, and to stray from the rules meant potential harm to my baby, so I had to step into line quickly and frequently monitor my blood sugar levels. This type of diet supports everything SW has outlined and it did me the world of good. A few months was enough time for my eating pattern to become a habit, and I’ve lost weight as a result and feel great (although not quite as strict on myself now). Sometimes a scare is all it takes…

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  • Stephanie

    I don’t think this is much of a tip, but number one thing in my mind in relation to food is a philosophy that I think you share: Eat and never feel guilty (someone else alluded to this above). I mostly follow a Michael Pollan type of diet, and rarely overeat simply because I don’t like the feeling of being full, so I suppose it’s easy to accomplish this. I just don’t think food should ever represent anything but joy, and I also don’t think it should be complicated (liked your comment about ingredient lists). I was at a wedding last week and there was a salad about to go to waste at the empty place next to me, and I wanted it, so I ate it. I suggested to the girl across the table that she eat the salad at the empty place next to her, since she was raving about the taste of the first one, and she said, “It seems you have no trouble keeping control of your weight, so you can do that.” This girl is perfectly thin. But I understood what she was saying. The only time I’ve ever put on weight and had trouble losing it was when I tried to control my weight in my 20s. When you give up control and you connect to food for taste and joy and nourishment everything falls into place, in my humble opinion. Oh and I also grow greens on my balcony!! I agree with Jane! (Am going to cut out sugar completely though…still sneak scotch mints from my desk drawer at work!)

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  • sarah

    I have a lot of food intolerances so I struggle with my diet daily but it has also forced me to be healthier than I have ever been. My issue is that most vegies and all fruits are off limits to me, as well as all seasonings, spices, gluten, soy, refined sugar, carbonated drinks and anything artificial.
    I only eat whole, natural foods and everything I eat, I cook myself, partly because I know it is better for me, but partly because I don’t trust that I can eat what someone else has cooked without getting sick.
    That said, this is a great post!

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  • http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com Alejandra

    Love all these, especially #11. When I was at Hearst I used to think it was so ridiculous that the hard-boiled egg bowl in the salad bar was always full of just yolks. The other women in the building would use their spoons to pop out the yolks and just take the whites to put on their salads. Not only was it rude since nobody was going to take just a yolk so they ended up going to waste, but also nutritionally foolish. I also hated that they never had whole milk or real heavy cream or full-fat yogurt. Just all these “low-fat” sugar-filled or artificially sweetened versions.

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  • http://ilsawynnehoelscher.tumblr.com/ Ilsa

    *Don’t eat when stressed, your body will not digest properly (this includes sad movies, the news)
    *Combine your food correctly for proper digestion – i.e. protein and veggies (and good fats) / wholegrains or starch as your carbs and veggies (fats) / fruit alone / dairy limited and by itself also.
    *Never eat more than 1 fist with snacks, and 2 fists with main meals. Eat slow – you wont be hungry.
    *Have snacks between meals so your blood sugar levels stay balanced.

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  • http://g2-generationgreen.blogspot.com/ Daniella

    Eat fruit on an empty stomach.
    And eat light to heavy to maximise digestion. ie. salad/vegies first followed by meat.

    Thanks for a great article Sarah.

    D

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  • Gillian

    Love this! And now inspired to read his books! Thank you for I Quit Sugar. I use to go through the “junk mail” Supermarket catalogues to see what specials were on. Now I just throw them out and head straight to the markets for my fresh vegies. I feel great!

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