October Challenge–In Defense of Food

First day of October, heaters were turned on in the apartment building.  Wool sweater was worn to work.  Mittens were sorely missed.  Hands became dry and cracked.  And my cold finally started to lift.  Is fall here to stay?  I hope so.

The other day, I had the time to finish Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.  Go read it.  Please.

In addition to feeding my aversion to what has become the Western diet, I began to rethink the cultural implications behind what I eat, how I eat, where I eat, when I eat, who I eat with, and so on.  Departing from cultural aspects of food and eating, combined with today’s obsession with individual nutrients rather than whole foods (the part vs. the whole), the average person is confused about what he or she should be eating.  While Pollan is not arrogant enough to tell you exactly what to eat, he does provide a general (and somewhat flexible) list of guidelines to assist with the nagging question, “what should I eat?”

So here is my idea:  Why not try to follow these guidelines for at least 1 month?  I already practice many of them, and the ones that I do not follow, I at least believe in.  The guidelines elaborate and explain this seemingly simple mantra–Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.

October Challenge:

  • “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
  • “Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup.”
  • “Avoid food products that make health claims”–Pollan’s big example of this throughout the book is how Margarine was originally marketed as healthy butter.  Surprise, surprise the trans fats in Margarine actually turned out to be the cause of many health problems.  This rule is one for good judgment.  Obviously if a whole food (like oatmeal (not the instant kind)) has a health claim on it, I am still going to eat it.
  • “Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”
  • “Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.”–Farmer’s markets and CSAs.
  • “Eat mostly plants.  Especially leaves.”  So many nutrients!
  • “You are what you eat eats too.” Cows that only ever eat a diet of grain will not be as nutritious as grass-fed cows.  Plants that grow in chemically altered, factory produced fertilizer will not be as nutritious as organic crops grown in rich soils.
  • “If you have the space, buy a freezer.” This one is out of the question for us… next!
  • “Eat well grown food from healthy soils.”
  • “Eat wild foods when you can.”
  • “Eat more like the French.  Or the Italians.  Or the Japanese.  Or the Indians.  Or the Greeks.”  North Americans have generally lost a sense of traditional food.  We do not eat according to the guidelines of our culture anymore.  Pollan argues that diets become part of a culture and part of tradition because they keep that culture healthy.  I suggest reading In Defense of Food to learn more.
  • “Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.”
  • “Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.”  Olive oil alone is not the reason why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy.  Big Macs are not the only reason why the Western diet is so unhealthy.
  • “Pay more, eat less.”  Buy quality organic foods whenever possible.  Food is not the place to save money–this was a lesson to me.  It makes so much sense.  What I put in my body should be high quality whole foods.  Saving money should be designated for other areas (perhaps what I put on my body?).
  • “Eat meals.”  Less snacking, more meals “together”.
  • “Do all your eating at a table.”  This will be a hard one for me.
  • “Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.”  Processed corn products
  • “Try not to eat alone.”  This is hard when at work, but I always eat dinner with James.
  • “Consult your gut.”  Stop eating when you are full.  Ignore visual cues (such as “there is still more food on my plate”), and tune into what is going on in your stomach.
  • “Eat slowly.” Focus on enjoyment of your meal.  Mindful, focused eating.
  • “Cook, and if you can, plant a garden.”

There it is.  A list of very specific goals for the month.  Farmer’s market on Saturday?  Yep.

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12 responses to “October Challenge–In Defense of Food

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  2. I’d already been wanting to read the book, but you just totally sold me! I’m going to pick it up ASAP.

    I totally agree that it’s worth spending more money on what you put in your body. It bothers me when people argue that organic is too expensive when I know what other silly stuff they’re spending money on! Plus, now I feel justified for buying my $10 soup and 1/2 sandwich lunch from the organic place down the block. ;)

  3. This is all so familiar.I am eating squash: acorn,butternut and round green with paler green stripes.I like it baked or mashed or in soup.Also lots of onions in recipes and hot red peppers not yet killed by the frost.I have baked apple crisp,apple coffe cake and apple spice cake.I’m drinking cold hollow cider.I like to eat in front of the fire place now.I drink my coffe and tea with freshly extracted honey.

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