Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics

Michael Pollan: How Cooking Can Change Your Life

Renowned activist and author Michael Pollan argues that cooking is one of the simplest and most important steps people can take to improve their family’s health, build communities, fix our broken food system, and break our growing dependence on corporations. He often claims that the rules for eating a healthy diet are very simple:

Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.

But for those of us who like our dietary guidelines to be more specific, he’s come up with a longer list:

1. Eat food

2. Don’t eat anything your great‐grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food

3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry

4. Avoid food products that contain high‐fructose corn syrup

5. Avoid food products that have some form of sugar (or sweetener listed among) the top three ingredients

6. Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients

7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third‐grader cannot pronounce

8. Avoid food products that make health claims

9. Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low fat” or “nonfat” in their names

10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not

11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television

12. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle

13. Eat only foods that will eventually rot

14. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature

15. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can

16. Buy your snacks at the farmers market

17. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans

18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap

19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car

21. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos or Pringles)

22. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves

23. Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food

24. Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].

25. Eat your colors

26. Drink the spinach water

27. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well

28. If you have space, buy a freezer

29. Eat like an omnivore

30. Eat well‐grown food from healthy soil

31. Eat wild foods when you can

32. Don’t overlook the oily little fishes

33. Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacterial or fungi

34. Sweeten and salt your food yourself

35. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature

36. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk

37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead

38. Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have traditionally been stone‐ground

39. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself

40. Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements

41. Eat more lie the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

42. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism

43. Have a glass of wine with dinner

44. Pay more, eat less

45. Eat less

46. Stop eating before you’re full

47. Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored

48. Consult your gut

49. Eat slowly

50. The banquet is in the first bite

51. Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it

52. Buy smaller plates and glasses

53. Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds

54. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper

55. Eat meals

56. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods

57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does

58. Do all your eating at a table

59. Try not to eat alone

60. Treat treats as treats

61. Leave something on your plate

62. Plant a vegetable garden if you have space, a window box if you don’t

63. Cook

64. Break the rules once in a while
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For the past twenty-five years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.

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