I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very healthy eater, at least in Michael Pollan’s eyes. Before reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto I thought I was on a pretty solid track as far as food intake goes. It turns out, however, that I follow only a few only a few of Pollan’s rules for healthy eating very loosely. His rules are good ones to eat by and are practices I think are very catchy, practical, and easy to remember.
First off, don’t eat anything that your Grandma wouldn’t recognize as food would be a good start. There are many different types of candies and sugary snacks like the Sour Twizzlers that smell and feel like Play-Doh or the fun dip packets that incorporates the idea of using a stick of sugar to pick up granular sugar and then eat it. The great example that Pollan uses in the book is the Twinkie. My 7th grade science teacher had a two-year old Twinkie that he proudly displayed in his classroom that hadn’t aged a bit. That was enough to slow me down on my once favorite snack. Aside from the taste, it is a wonder how we ever thought forcing these foods into our digestive system would be a good idea.
Along the same lines are the foods with unpronounceable ingredients found on the label. Even as I write this paper I find that my bag of Rold Gold pretzels contains two tongue twisting, 14-letter ingredients accompanied by corn syrup. Anything that doesn’t sound like it could naturally grow in the ground should probably be reconsidered before consumption. My problem here is that I rarely look at the ingredient list for fear of what I might find. Ignorance is bliss. However, ignorance is not bliss for the thousands of people who unknowingly develop diabetes from excessive high-fructose corn syrup consumption each year.
Instead of using unwillingness to read the ingredients as an excuse, Pollan suggests ways to avoid those foods altogether. My favorite is the idea of shopping at the peripherals of the supermarket rather than the center. Never before have I made a mental map of the average supermarket but every one that I can picture now has fresh produce, dairy, and other fresh-grown products on the outskirts along the walls. The deeper you get into the heart of the supermarket is where you find the processed snacks, drinks, and candies with the excruciatingly long ingredient lists. By avoiding those aisles in the first place, one can avoid the health consequences of consuming those foods. Better yet, Pollan suggests to avoid the supermarket altogether. He is a big advocate of the Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and home gardens. This is consistent with his motto, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” Along the same lines is the concept of eating well-grown food from healthy soils. Chances are that smaller producers use more sustainable practices in growing their food and clearly do not ship their products all over the world
A timely rule for me personally is to eat wild food whenever possible. This past week I have gone morel mushroom hunting twice, finding about a dozen in total. I consider this a wild food because I picked it myself from the woods. I have also been fishing quite a bit lately and found a good spot to catch crappie, a very delicious fish. If only I had the tools to prepare them. It is relatively easy and fun to find your own food. I see it as a way to connect with nature and it often comes free of charge minus the fishing supplies and liscence.
All of the rules that Pollan introduces to us seem logical and relatively easy to follow. Pollan does a good job of showing the reader how easy and necessary his rules are to our health. I really hope to increase my intake of plants this summer by helping my parents with our family garden and hopefully growing and managing a few of my own plants. This will incorporate eating well-grown food from healthy soils. I will have more time and resources to clean and prepare the fish that I catch this summer to incorporate wild food into my diet more heavily. The coolest of Pollan’s rules, I believe, is shopping at the peripherals of the supermarket. It is such a simple concept to stay near the fresh produce and dairy sections rather than wandering into the zone of processed foods. I am going also going to try to stick with more local operations like the smaller Fareway stores, HyVees, and the Cedar Rapids Farmer’s Market throughout the summer months while I am home.