Eight Simple Concepts Michael Pollan Puts Best

by Allie Misch

No matter how many times we've heard Michael Pollan's philosophies through reading his writings or listening to him give talks on the past, present and future state of our food, there's a way to his words that makes this complex issue seem a bit, simpler. We recently had the honor of hearing Michael Pollan speak as part of The Jefferson Series at The  McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany. Here's few classic concepts we took away from his view on nutrition:

You don’t get fat oN food you pray over.

Not to be taken literally as you can put on some pounds pretty quickly praying over fried chicken and biscuits, but as Pollan pointed out, the meals we sit down to truly enjoy and savor will do our bodies better in the long run as opposed to the ones we eat while driving to our next destination.

Which reminds us...

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

This goes hand-in-hand with number one. Gas station snacks may seem like a quick fix during your fill up, but shouldn’t we be aiming to eat foods that will eventually rot? We’re looking at you, Twinkies.

Eat foods that your grandmother would recognize.

Pollan’s practical example is the portable yogurt known as Go-Gurt. “She wouldn't know how to get that into her body,” he said pointing to the tubes of yogurt. “Because it was so hard to eat yogurt before,” he said, poking fun at the usability Go-Gurt markets itself on.

But really, have you read the ingredients on the back of the box before? Since we don’t know any grandma who keeps Tricalcium Phosphate handy in the kitchen, we’ll be sticking to Snowville’s grass grazed yogurt ourselves.

Only eat the junk foods you cook yourself.

Have you ever tried to make French fries? Exactly. It’s way easier to go out and grab them than to go through the whole process of making a batch for yourself. Not to mention while you’re out at that restaurant, they are likely serving food portions of what used to be considered a platter not too long ago. Unless you’re a trained chef, there’s a good chance when you cook at home instead of going out you are making simpler meals, less French fries.

But speaking of the French...

Do as the French do.

The French paradox is that they indulge in such rich foods that some of us would never think to touch, yet they are healthier as a society than Americans. “We hope it’s the red wine,” Pollan said, but their secret could be avoiding snacking. Rumor has it the French never eat alone or on the go, which again keeps our meals sacred and our minds attentive to what we are putting in our mouths.

There are lots of good reasons to eat OTHER than just to stay alive.

Every year there is a new “bad” food out there for us, whether its carbs, gluten, fats, etc. “Something really peculiar happened during the 'low fat' craze,” Pollan told the audience. “We got fat!

Our culture is constantly pivoting to reengineer foods that fit our current craze. Take Snackwells for instance: “If one is good for you, a whole box must be better!” Pollan joked about our mindset when it comes to following the latest trends, but when a product is manufactured to take something out, there is a good chance whatever is replacing it isn’t natural.

Eat food, not toO much, mostly plants.

A classic Michael Pollan line, but it really doesn’t have to be complicated. When the government put together Senate Select Committee on Nutrition in 1977, they caused a stir by saying “eat less red meat,” which resulted in them withdrawing their guidelines and rewriting them to cater to the meat industry. “Eat less of” one thing became “eat more of” another, like chicken. This theory of eating more of something instead of less of another is central to the business of food, not our health. 

Pollan suggests treating meat as a special occasion or using it to add flavor. “Flexitarians,” people who stay on the conservative side of the average meat intake, can be just as healthy as vegetarians he said.

Break the rules.

“Being anxious isn’t good for your health either,” Pollan reminded us. We need to be relaxed, not punitive. Eat until we are satisfied, not full; when hungry, not bored. (Here’s a test: if you’re not “hungry enough” to eat an apple, you’re probably not hungry at all.)

There are many different ways to eat, but sticking close to nature and eating real food, not food-like substances, is the only way we can take back control of our health. Not only because it is too important to ignore, but we can’t rely on corporations to care for us.

And always remember...

“All things in moderation, including moderation.” -Oscar Wilde