The golden guideline for healthy eating: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”–Michael Pollen

By | June 3, 2012

In my quest to educate myself on healthy eating,  I recently came across the works of Michael Pollen. Pollen is is a best selling author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Pollen is not your typical health eating advocate with an MD or an ND or some other degree that ends in “D.” He is a professor of literature at UC Berkley with a talent for research and putting things in a very common sense and practical way.

Pollen brings a prospective to food and healthy eating that is somewhat unique to anything I have come across so far and seems to make sense – a lot of sense. He doesn’t push the latest super cure for all of our chronic health problems, such Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, probiotics, superfoods, Omerga-3’s, Antioxidants, or any of the other trends in healthy eating. He also doesn’t try to generate fear for the latest bad things, such as mercury, transfats, saturated fats, high fructose corn syrup, and so on. I’m not saying he agrees or disagrees with these things, he is just not out evangelizing them.

What Pollen does it try to distill practical, timeless wisdom into its simplest form. His simple formula for healthy eating through years of research is summarized in just seven words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

 He provides a lot of detail around this, but this is what it all boils down to. Now, when he says food, he means real food, not “editable food-like substances” as he calls them. These are the highly processed items that are so common in our diets today. The things that are designed to entice us to eat them but are full of chemicals we don’t understand. These are the items that can sit on a shelf for months without a problem, maybe even years.

When he says not too much, he means don’t’ eat until you are full. This is not good. Eat until you are almost full. Leave the table a bit hungry. This philosophy is somewhat foreign to the Western diet but is quiet common among many other countries.

Finally, plants have been around a long time. They contain a lot of things are bodies need. They are mostly good for us when not filled with chemicals. Meats can be OK, but eat them not as much as you eat plants. As for sugar and processed foods, avoid them.

Pollen tries to help all of us eat better by providing some general guidelines for eating. He has many of them and continues to add to his list in the hopes that a few will stick with his readers. Here are just a few of them. I am calling them my “golden guidelines for eating”:

  • Don’t’ eat what your great grandmother would not recognize – these are mainly the processed foods.
  • When buying prepared foods, don’t’ eat items with more than four ingredients in them – food does not need to be complex. If it has a lot of ingredients, ti is usually preservatives and chemicals you do not want.
  • Shop on the perimeter of the grocery store – fresh stuff is on the perimeter. All the processed stuff is in the middle.
  • Don’t eat what you cannot pronounce – these are the chemicals.
  • Eat at the table – don’t eat int he car. The foods you eat in the car are usually not the types of foods you should be eating.

Well, there are a lot more guidelines and a lot more interesting information that Pollen has to say. I recommend looking into what he has said and see if it rings true for you in the crazy and confusing world of healthy living.



I was just watching a YoutTube video by Andrew Weil, M.D. titled “Real Food: The Best Diet.” He is in agreement with Michael Pollen on the importance of eating real foods and avoiding processed foods, which are usually high in Omega-6 fatty acids. He also suggests that the Mediterranean diet is a good starting place for healthy eating. I like hearing this because it supports what I feel is correct and supports what Michael Pollen teaches.

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