Monday, September 28, 2009

Healthy Eating "Rules"

The following list of rules if from my current read, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. His motto for life is "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants". By food he means real food. Natural, unprocessed, unrefined 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."

If it has those features, it probably can't be considered real food. I would also like to add, avoid food products that contain hydrogenated oils. That's the number one source for trans fats. If you aren't a label reader, now is a good time to start.

"Avoid food products that make health claims."

According to Pollan, these claims are "often founded on incomplete and often erroneous science."

My favourite faux health claim is by Kellog's Special K cereal. Have you heard about the Special K Challenge? It guarantees that you'll drop a jean size in two weeks. All you have to do is eat a bowl of Special K for breakfast, a bowl of Special K for lunch then have a healthy dinner. For snacks you are allowed two Special K products (cereal, snack bars, crackers or protein mix) per day. Really sounds like a healthy way to lose weight, doesn't it? Sounds more like a marketing ploy to sell more Special K products.

Cheerios claims to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Cheerios boxes even carry the Health Check symbol from the Heart & Stroke Foundation, despite having 9g of sugar per serving in Honey Nut Cheerios. Frosted Cheerios does not earn the Health Check symbol with 10g of sugar per serving, but it does claim to be "low in fat", an "excellent source of iron" and "made with whole grains". Does any of that matter when you're eating a bowl of sugar for breakfast?

Read more about misleading health claims on cereal boxes. You can apply the same guideline to all manufactured food products.

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

We've all heard this before. The fresh, "real" food offered in the produce, meat and dairy sections are usually found around the walls. The processed and manufactured food is stored in the aisles. Pretty well The only time I frequent the asiles is to get rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, canned tuna, olive oil, vinegar, tea, honey, spices and asian or mexican food supplies. Although sometimes a carton of frozen yogurt is a nice treat.

"Get out of the supermarket whenever possible."

Kins Farm Market is a great source of local, fresh produce. Coquitlam has a farmers market every Sunday at Poirier Rec Centre. It runs from 9am-1pm but only until October 25th. Meridian Meats has a small selection of free range beef and chicken. Hopcott Meats in Pitt Meadows offers free range, hormone and antibiotic free beef, pork and poultry and all the cattle is grazed on the family farm next door to the shop. Can't get much more local than that!

For more local meat, dairy and produce, check out the BC Farm List and the BC Farmers Market website.

For more tips and information about the manufactured food industry and the evils of the Western diet, buy the book.


  1. I will say that I disagree with one of Pollan's "rules" (and I sort of hate the term rules, in and of itself, but that's a whole other issue) - the whole "don't eat it if it has more than 5 ingredients". I think that as long as the ingredients are real ingredients, then the actual number should not matter. Take a sprouted multigrain bread - just the nature of the product guarantees you will see more than 5 ingredients, but they are all recognizable foods. I think, more than anything, you just need to read your labels and understand what everything is.

  2. Very good point. As long as the ingredients are food (as opposed to chemicals and additives etc), then it doesn't matter how many there are. There are actually a few of his rules I don't agree with so I left them out of the post. The Great Grandmother rule for one.

    And I agree about the use of the word "rules", hence the use of the quotes.


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