If there are any words we all might strive to live by, it’s the seven unassuming ones by acclaimed author and investigative journalist Michael Pollan.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
It’s the simplest yet smartest answer to how we should eat, and yet often we don’t think hard enough about what really happens when we cook our meals.
Interested? Pollan compiled the following ten food rules to support his mantra. They’re not full of nutritional jargon – they’re just logical, easy to follow and at the very least, compel us to think twice during the next supermarket trip.
Rule 1: Don’t eat anything that your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food
Imagine strolling the supermarket aisles with your great grandmother. Chances are she’d be fairly horrified – and probably wouldn’t distinguish food products from laundry products. Stick to foods that she would recognise: wholefoods without preservatives, additives and flavourings.
Rule 2: Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients
Labels list ingredients in order of weight, with the most prominent ingredient appearing first. If sugar or one of the 40+ sugar substitutes is in the top three ingredients, then there is too much sugar and not enough of anything else.
Rule 3: Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
As a rule, people who eat according to their native culture have a healthier diet than those who eat a Western diet. Pay attention to both what a culture eats and also how they eat. More often than not a family will sit down to a communal meal, have small serves and no second helpings or big desserts.
Rule 4: Stop eating before you’re full
The simple fact is that you should stop eating before you are full. The Japanese have a saying – “hara hachi bu”, meaning "eat until you are 80% full". So next time you are eating, ask yourself “am I still hungry?” Not “am I full?” Hunger will disappear before fullness sets in.
Rule 5: Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored
Eating has become so much more than a hunger satisfier. In today’s society it appears to be an anti-depressant, a stress alleviator and a way to celebrate. Try to increase awareness as to why you are eating. If it’s not to satisfy hunger, then maybe food isn’t the answer.
Rule 6: Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods
Snack food appears to be a major factor in the rise of the obesity epidemic. If you are going to snack, try to ensure that it is on unprocessed nuts, fruit and vegetables only.
Rule 7: Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
Petrol stations now make more money on food than they do on petrol. Now consider that the only unprocessed food in a service station is milk and water, so it’s not surprise that Australia is currently one of the most obese nations in the world.
Rule 8: The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead
White bread is recognised as a sugar by the body when processing it, as it offers few vitamins or fibre. Opt for wholegrains in order to get the benefits of B-group vitamins and fibre.
Rule 9: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself
Humans have eaten sweet foods for many generations without getting fat. They’d bake a cake using wholesome ingredients that took time to rise and cool. Today, food manufacturers have made eating junk food too affordable and accessible. If you want hot chips, fine, but make them yourself. Firstly, you’ll know exactly what goes into them and secondly, the effort required to make them helps reduce the eating frequency!
Rule 10: Break the rules once in a while
We all know rules are meant to be broken and these food rules are no exception. Obsessing over food has left us in our current predicament. There’ll always be special occasions where you want to indulge, as long as they are not too regular; it’s okay to enjoy the moment and forget the rules sometimes.