Saturday, July 23, 2011

FOOD RULES - Review on Rules #1-#5

I've been thinking ... can you smell the wood burning? :)

Since there are 64 "Rules" in Michael Pollan's book, "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual," I thought that instead of just posting two per week, I should take a moment to revisit them to see how they are (or aren't) working for me. Now that I have officially posted the first ten Rules, I will review Rules #1 - #5. After I post Rules #11 - #15 in the next few weeks, I will post an update on Rules #5 - #10. Make some sort of sense? :)

Before I begin, this is a pic of Michael Pollan from his interview with the Toronto Star. I have seen him on TV in two interviews - very, very thought provoking! He is quite interesting. :) Stop your channel surfing when you see this face talking! :)

Rule #1 - Eat food.

Two deceptively easy words ... until one realizes that the majority of 'food' we put in our mouths are actually "food-like substances." :( Two easy words that have rocked my concept of food! Most of the rules that follow in Part I explain these two words in much greater depth. Suffice it to say, I am currently in the process of becoming much more conscious of this, discussing the concept with friends and family, and analyzing what I am putting in my mouth. A lot of the time, I am thinking about it as I put the food-like substance in my mouth, and so the next step for me is to start thinking more about it before it reaches my mouth.

I am not finding this too difficult of a rule to follow. I understand the general gist of this, and when I look at the food in my pantry and in my fridge, I know there are a several products "great-grandma" would not recognize (Clif bars, Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal, Willie's Zucchini Relish, Renee's Gourmet Vinaigrettes, Chipits Peanut Butter Chips), but I think that she would recognize more than 50% of the items I have in the kitchen. This is because I cook most meals from scratch so my starting point with this rule is already at a 'higher' level (for lack of a better description). This doesn't mean I don't have my work cut out for me (do I really want to keep a bag of croutons in the pantry for Ben's caesar salads when the expiry date is not until 2012?!?!). I just want to acknowledge the improvements I have already made - so let's have a woo hoo! for that - but I/we need to improve upon this more. Ben is not necessarily on this bandwagon with me so there needs to be some give-and-take/cajoling involved. :)

I like this rule, but it is really challenging. Michael Pollan uses several examples, and one of them is "xanthan gum". However, I have seen this product on the shelf in the "Natural Food" section of my grocery store. (??) Multiple organic and natural processed foods contain xanthan gum! My Renee's Gourmet Vinaigrettes, which are kept in the cooler by the lettuces (not on the shelf next to all the Kraft processed salad products), have ideal ingredients listed until the third last one (before dried red peppers and the ambiguous "spice") - xanthan gum. Therefore, I think I have to pick my battles. I do read my Nutrition Facts and ingredient lists before putting something in my cart. I have improved how many processed foods make it to my pantry shelf with multiple chemical-sounding names. If the ingredient list is more than 75% ingredients that I could buy and pronounce, I'm okay with it. This is where I am at with this rule now at the present time.

An excellent rule. I am someone who thought "real cane sugar" was better! Therefore, when he writes, "sugar is sugar," it's an "aha" moment for me. I attribute my weight fluctuations over the years in part to sugar - I have an incredible sweet tooth. This is a work in progress for me. Just the other day, my mom, who, like me, eats organic peanut butter, had a spoonful of Ben's Kraft Crunchy Peanut Butter and exclaimed while making a face, "Ewwwww! That's so sweet!" And she's right - his PB has sugar in it ... as does the BBQ sauce he loves (high fructose corn syrup) and the Heinz ketchup he eats (liquid sugar). I would be lying if I claimed I never eat these two products - when Ben barbecues steaks for us, he adds the sauce during cooking, and when I fry an egg, I usually add a teaspoon of ketchup to it (yum yum!). But having admitted that, my success with it at this time is that these kind of products are not eaten every day or even every week ... and I am researching alternatives.

When I initially gained a significant amount of weight, guess what I was drinking all the time? Diet Coke! It took me a looong time to break myself free from it and to recognize how much long term damage it did to my health. I've read about how aspartame makes people crave sweets - I can attest to that! I jumped on the anti-sweetener bandwagon a long time ago so I can guarantee that there is nothing in my fridge and pantry that has artificial sweetener in it. It still creeps me out that to this day, if I slip up and indulge in a can of Diet Coke, I will inevitably have big cravings for it for days afterwards. :(

I have also been following this rule on my own for some time in an effort to cut back on sugar. I just took a few minutes to look in my fridge and pantry, and woo hoo! On a positive note, most of the items that I have that do have honey or sugar listed have it much further down the list, but I did find two that listed sugar in the first three ingredients ... our Clif bars (brown rice syrup was the #1 listed ingredient) and Chipits Peanut Butter chips (sugar was #2).

The chips were intended for oatmeal cookies that I occasionally bake for Ben as a treat ... I may have to rethink the Clif bars. :(


  1. Nice review and although he makes a lot of sense, do not start to deprive yourself of those "treats" once in a while. I found that by doing that I craved things more and then it caused a lot of other issues.

    Reduction of the items he lists are certainly a good idea, but the basic rule for weight loss is cals in vs cals out.

    Clif Bars are the best of all those types of bars, I use them sparinly.

    By the way Aspertaime if consumed in heat or used before a run heats up and produces themaldihide in your system.. Too me if you need some sugar and it is important in your system get it naturally or use the real thing.

  2. Thank you for the feedback, Runnerbill. :) There's no worry about me treating myself - LOL! :) However, I really would like to redefine for myself what constitutes a "treat." I agree with the calories in/calories out - something so basic yet so challenging. I downloaded a Perfect Diet Tracker app to help me track my calories (it gives %age of carbs, fat and protein, too). What I like about Pollan's books is that they branch into other areas of interest to me as well - what we are doing to our animals, the planet, the chemicals we are adding to our bodies. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution taps into this as well. And finally, thanks for sharing the horrible detail about aspartame producing themaldihide in our systems. GROSS !!

  3. Keep it up! I love reading about this. I'm really impressed at your ability to make these difficult changes. Sugar is Sugar was an aha moment for me too when I read your post about it.

  4. LOL! It's hit and miss right now but the key thing for me is thinking about it and eating consciously rather than subconsciously. One step at a time!