Treat Treats as Treats

Treat treats as treats – and other smart rules to eat by


In the movie The Hurt Locker, there’s no shortage of tense, nerve shredding scenes involving bomb disposal in hot dusty streetscapes, but the image from the movie that really sticks in my head is a long way from Iraq. It’s in the climate-controlled aisle of an American supermarket where the camera pans along shelves of breakfast cereal that seem to stretch for ever. I thought of this as I read Rule 36 of Food Rules, the new book by US writer Michael Pollan: ‘don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of your milk’. Even if you’ve never read Pollan’s best sellers, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence of Food , you’ll recognise his memorable one liners: ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’ and ‘don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’.
If anyone deserves a prize for making us stop and think about how far modern food has drifted from the diet humans were designed to eat, it’s Pollan. And in Food Rules he distils the wisdom of the earlier books into a road map to help readers navigate an increasingly complex food supply. His bottom line: that populations eating a typical western diet – lots of processed food, and meat, lots of added sugars and fat and lots of refined grains end up with higher rates of obesity, heart disease and cancer than those eating more traditional, less industrialised foods. “What an extraordinary achievement for a civilisation: to have developed the one diet that reliably makes its people sick,” he says.
Here’s some of Pollan’s rules.
Treat treats as treats.
There’s nothing wrong with special occasion foods, Pollan says – as long as every day isn’t a special occasion. But outsourcing our food preparation to the food industry has made formerly expensive or time consuming foods – from French fries to pastries and ice cream – easy and accessible. The fact that these foods take time to make from scratch is no longer the barrier to eating them often than it used to be. Pollan’s advice – make these foods yourself and eat them less – or limit the ready-made stuff to weekends or special occasions. Or use the “S’ policy – “no snacks, no seconds, no sweets – except on days that begin with the letter S”.

Eat only food that will eventually rot
The more processed a food is, the longer the shelf life, and the less nutritious is typically is, he says.
Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.
The diet of the animals we eat influences the nutritional quality of the food we get from them, Pollan writes.”We feed animals a high energy diet of grain to make them grow quickly, even in the case of ruminants that have evolved to eat grass. But even food animals that can tolerate grains are much healthier when they have access to green plants – and so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. The food from these animals will contain much healthier types of fat (more omega-3s, less omega-6s) as well as appreciably high levels of vitamins and antioxidants.”
Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
“Except perhaps for the milk and water, it’s all high processed imperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened drinks…”
Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry
Chemicals added to food are designed to extend their shelf life or get you to eat more, he says. “Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven hazard to your health, many of them haven’t been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided.”
Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.
Try to be aware of why you’re eating and ask yourself if you’re really hungry – before you eat and then again along the way. (One old wives ‘test: if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry). Food is a costly anti-depressant.”
Food Rules. An Eater’s Manual is published by Penguin, rrp $16.95.

by Paula Goodyer



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