Consumer culture in the United States is a confusing. Throughout a single day, we are bombarded with advertisements of grease-glistening burgers, every fast-food imaginable, salty snacks, and chemically colored desserts. Our favorite celebrities pop-up on our screens and tell us, “Eat This Burger!”
Next thing you know, you’re 30 pounds overweight, tired and at the doctor’s office feeling like a pile of shit. We are so overwhelmed with different messages that it seems impossible to understand what is the right or “normal” way to eat.
So how are we supposed to know what’s real and what’s wrong? We receive mixed messages through every outlet.
Micheal Pollen, the author of, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, breaks down the question, “What should we eat?” into 21 guidelines to show you the way:
1. EAT FOOD
2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry. (Ethoxylated diglycerides…. I don’t think so.)
4. Avoid food containing high-fructose corn syrup. (I may not be worse than sugar but it is a sure sign that the product has been highly processed.)
5. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
6. Avoid food products that contain more than FIVE ingredients.
7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
8. Avoid food products that make health claims!
9. Avoid foods with the wordoid “lite” or terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names.
10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not. (Includes “mock-meat” and other foods many people assume are healthy.)
11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
It seems so simple, but these rules seems so much more difficult when you actually take a walk through your own pantry.
I went through this list with my sister, a busy mom who prides herself on feeding her family healthy foods. I asked her how well she follows each of these eleven rules in her daily life. Her overwhelming response was “yes!”
“I guess my worst days are when I am really busy with work and we go to out to dinner at Qdoba or Noodles. I try really hard not to fall to far off the wagon, but it can be hard. Overall, I think I do pretty well, though.”
We walked through Baily’s pantry after we went through the list. We were both were amazed to see that she had all sorts of artificially sweetened, preservative filled foods! We cracked up at how confident she was, but it was eye-opening for both of us to see how assuming that “natural” products can still be packed with ingredients I, a college educated student, can barely pronounce.
It might feel strange that we need to follow a guide that is, in a way, just telling us to simplify. But it is so easy to fall into the over-processed or “NEW” and “AMAZING” food product that are available. It’s not always easy, but choosing to be conscious of the chemicals and preservatives we consume is the first step. Eat simply and you will stay healthy! Let’s do it, people. Let’s make our guts happy and treat these amazing machines the way they deserve to be treated.