It’s really kind of silly, but I’ve always remembered that little jingle we learned in grade school: “you are what you eat, from your head down to your feet.”
So when I started reading Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food,” I was hooked. I got through it in just 3 days. Between work and chasing K-bear, that’s saying a lot.
I have to recommend this book to anyone who has ever tried a low-fat or low-carb diet, wonders what made America fat, or who just needs the education and inspiration to start eating better.
Doesn’t one of those instances fit just about all of us?
A journalist by trade, Pollan uses extensive research to pull together all the pieces of the food puzzle in America. He explains what he calls the “Age of Nutritionism” and the rise of the western diet, both of which disrupted our natural food culture and food chain, resulting in negative impacts to our health. This includes the overwhelming rise of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
Truth be told, I’ve always had a natural inclination towards healthy, whole food; it just feels right. Perhaps that’s because we grew up on very little junk and ate a home-cooked meal together at the table every weeknight, not to mention Sunday dinners at my Grandparents’ (thank you, family!). I took this for granted at the time of course, but now it’s a tradition that I’m happy to carry on with my own family.
Unfortunately, it’s become a lost habit for the majority of Americans, tossed by the wayside along with whole foods, only to be replaced by processed junk eaten at a desk, in the car, or in front of a TV.
Pollan explains, “I no longer think it’s possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment from which we eat or the environment in which we eat … If my explorations of the food chain have taught me anything, it’s that it is a food chain, and all the links in it are in fact linked: the health of the soil to the health of the plants and animals we eat to the health of the food culture in which we eat them to the health of the eater, in body as well as mind.”
I. LOVE. THIS. I want to scream it from the rooftop.
Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of times, I’d like to toss in the kitchen towel and pick up something, anything, for dinner instead of going home to cook. But I never do. Because it’s not the best choice, for my wallet or my body. Instead those are our homemade pizza nights. Or our grilled cheese and soup nights.
So the good news is I’m already on the right track. However, there is always room for improvement. Regardless of where any of us are with our current eating habits, we have the power to educate ourselves and create positive change.
Pollan uses the final section of his book to elaborate on the following recommendations, which, you guessed it, boil down to: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
Eat Food: Food Defined
- Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that are (a) unfamiliar, (b) unpronounceable, (c) more than five in number, or that include (d) high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid food products that make health claims
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
- Get out of the supermarket whenever possible
Mostly Plants: What to Eat
- Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
- You are what what you eat eats too
- If you have the space, buy a freezer
- Eat like an omnivore
- Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
- Eat wild foods when you can
- Be the kind of person who takes supplements
- Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks
- Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism
- Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet
Not Too Much: How to Eat
- Pay more, eat less
- Eat meals
- Do all your eating at a table
- Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
- Try not to eat alone
- Consult your gut
- Eat slowly
- Cook and, if you can, plant a garden
After all, you are what you eat, from your head down to your feet! Imagine the positive change we can elicit in our country, in our lives, in our children’s lives and in our environment if we live this every day with every food choice and meal we eat.
Just don’t get too freaked out when you hear me yelling from the rooftop.
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