Monday, February 13, 2012


from "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual," by Michael Pollan


Part III: How Should I Eat? (Not too much.)

The rules in the previous two sections deal primarily with questions about what to eat; the ones in this section deal with something a bit more elusive but no less important: the set of manners, eating habits, taboos, and unspoken guidelines that together govern a person's (and a culture's) relationship to food and eating. How you eat may have as much bearing on your health (and your weight) as what you eat.

This may well be the deeper lesson of the so-called French paradox: the mystery (at least to nutritionists) of a population that eats all sorts of supposedly lethal fatty foods, and washes them down with red wine, but which is nevertheless healthier, slimmer, and slightly longer lived than we are. What nutritionists fail to see in the French is a people with a completely different relationship to food than we have. They seldom snack, eat small portions from small plates, don't go back for second helpings, and eat most of their food at long, leisurely meals shared with other people. The rules governing these behaviours may matter more than any magic nutrient in their diet.

The rules in this section are designed to foster a healthier relationship to food, whatever it is you're eating.

Rule #44 - Pay more, eat less.

With food, as with so many things, you get what you pay for. There is also a trade-off between quality and quantity, and a person's "food experience" - a meal's duration or quotient of pleasure - does not necessarily correlate with the number of calories consumed. The American food system has for many years devoted its energies to increasing quantity and reducing price rather than improving quality. There's no escaping the fact that better food - measured by taste and nutritional quality (which often correspond) - costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is a literal shame, but most of us can: Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, less than than the citizens of any other nation. As the cost of food in America has declined, in terms of both price and the effort required to put it on the table, we have been eating much more (and spending more on health care). If you spend more for better food, you'll probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care. And if that higher-quality food tastes better, you will need less of it to feel satisfied. Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories. Or as grandmothers used to say, "Better to pay the grocer than the doctor."

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

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