We always think (or hope) that there are easy rules to follow that lead to a healthier life and healthy eating. But as much as Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual suggests we just have to adhere to some simple ideas to eat healthy, when you get right down to it, nothing is that simple.

But I must say that he made me stop and think about what I am eating.

If you read nothing else, read his 12-page introduction. It is an eye-opener because he suggests ideas that we all (or most of us) can agree on but are never willing to say out loud.

1. Even though we have all heard of the following words: antioxidant, saturated fat, folic acid, carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids, we are no closer to knowing what it takes to eat healthy. We have learned the “talk”, but it is not leading us to a better understanding of food nor a greater understanding of good nutrition.

2.  The way we eat, the so-called Western diet, leads to disease – everything from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems and cancers. And the bad eating cycle not only continues but continues to get worse.

3.  The Western diet is great for business…the food manufacturers continue to create more “manufactured” foods” and the pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs as an antidote to our terrible eating habits. They win. We lose!

So what does Pollan suggest? He lists 64-somewhat simple rules that he simplifies into one statement:

                                         Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Let me share some of Pollan’s rules that made the most sense to me: 

Rule #3:  Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.  He suggests that if you wouldn’t cook with these ingredients, cellulose, xanthan gum, ammonium sulfate, than why let others use these ingredients in your food?

Rule #5: Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among that top three ingredients.  He suggests that no matter what we call it, sugar is sugar and it does not lead to weight loss.

Rule #6: Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.   (Or his rule #7: avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.)  The more ingredients in foods and the more processed, the less healthy it is for us.

Rule # 20: It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car. Good-bye Duncan Doughnuts, Sonic and all those other burger joints.  

Pollan is a well-respected journalist and popular speaker. Whether you get Food Rules from the library or Amazon, get it now. It’s a fun read with lots of ideas to chew on. And maybe we can all get healthier along the way.

photo by Ken Light.