We’d all like to eat more healthy foods, but what exactly is a healthy food? We’re constantly bombarded by different diets, low fat, low carb, vegan, this celebrity, that doctor. Who knows what to think?
Michael Pollan has come up with seven rules for eating healthy food that make for a useful perspective on the whole issue. Let’s take a look at (a slightly paraphrased version) of his rules and see where they lead us.
Eat food your great grandmother would recognize
This rule, like most of them, is designed more as a way to think than as a hard and fast rule. I’m pretty certain my great grandmother never saw a kiwi in her life and I’m quite certain that some of the foods she ate, like calf’s brains, I wouldn’t call food.
The point is eat food as close to it’s natural state as possible. Stay away from the Franken-food or anything heavily processed.
Healthy foods don’t have more than five ingredients, or anything you can’t pronounce
Again, don’t worry too much about the exceptions. A bag of frozen vegetables with six kinds of vegetable is just fine.
What you want to watch out for are the ingredient labels that look like the stock list for my high school chemistry lab. Eat food as unprocessed as possible.
Shop around the edges of the grocery store
The one is really more about how food is sold to us than anything else. The high margin, massively processed, long shelf life stuff is in the middle of the store where you have to walk by it over and over. The more perishable, natural foods are around the edges where it easier to replenish them. That is where you want to be.
Healthy food will eventually rot, unhealthy food won’t
This rule relates to the last one. Healthy food doesn’t last forever. And that’s actually a good thing. All the nutrients are still packed in there. As food gets processed more and more, the nutrients decrease with each step along the way.
So if you have to make a few extra trips to the grocery store, it’s for the best.
Healthy food is more than just food
Don’t eat until you’re stuffed. Not only is that a sign you’ve eaten too much, you can’t really enjoy that much food. As stomachs don’t generally come with gauges the rules about eating to 80% full or something like that are silly. but you really do want to stop before you’re completely full.
Eat at a table and not alone
This relates to the rule above. So often we grab a quick bite at our desk or while running from place to place. Stop and take time to actually pay attention to what you’re eating. What does it taste like? How does it feel and smell?
Spending a moment being attentive to what you’re putting in your month will encourage you to eat better food and by slowing down, you’re giving your body a chance to signal you that it’s had enough.
And if you have a family, be sure to take time to eat a meal together. I know we’re all running off in a dozen different directions but we’re social animals and we really do need the social contact. If you don’t have any family handy, set down with a friend or coworker.
Don’t buy your fuel where you fuel your car
Eating in your car has to be one of our society’s worst habits. Not only are you distracted from the road, you’re not giving any thought to what you’re eating.
While there is probably is healthy gas station food out there somewhere, it’s pretty slim pickings.
Some final thoughts on healthy food
So where does all this leave us? If you eat food as close to it’s natural state as possible, actually give some attention to what you’re eating and make mealtimes a social experience, you’re well on your way to eating healthy foods.
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