Food can be a challenging topic to write about. My recent post – Food, as simple as it gets – started many conversations, mostly about the 3 simple guidelines. So, I thought I would expand a bit on those.

“Food is simple” is how we start conversations about food with our clients. We want to demystify and simplify eating, because it is our collective experience over the last decade that most people are really confused  – even anxious – about food and eating. We want people to take a deep breath, stop fretting, and simplify their thinking and their actions to the extent possible.

So, we start with Pollan’s three guidelines. Here they are again:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

So today; what is food? We’ve been led to believe that taste and convenience rule supreme, and if it is marketed as edible, then it’s food and ok to eat. That’s debatable. It’s not that you can’t eat everything marketed as edible, but in the interest of health and simplifying the answer to “what should I eat and feed my family”, there’s an important distinction to be made.

There is food, and food products – or “edible food-like substances.” Knowing the difference between food made by nature and a food product made by food scientists is a simple and effective way to guide your daily choices. Eating less food products and more food is a game changer for the average diet.

For example; a chicken breast – fresh or frozen – is food.  A chicken nugget is a food product.

Oven-roasted potatoes: food.  McDonald’s fries: food product.

An orange: food.  Orange drink “made with real fruit juice”: food product.

Plain greek yogurt with some fresh or frozen berries thrown in: food.  Go-Gurt Portable Yogurt Tubes: food product.

Peanut butter made of only peanuts (sometimes salt): food.   Jif or Skippy: food product.

Here are a few more guidelines from Food Rules:

  • If it came from a plant, eat it.  If it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients you wouldn’t keep in the fridge or pantry. (Sodium nitrite? Cellulose? Xanthan gum? Hydrogenated palm oil?)
  • Avoid food products with sugar listed in the top 5 ingredients.  (This is a reliable marker for a food product that’s been engineered to keep you coming back for more.)

Yes, eating food vs. food products will probably require some shifts in your day-to-day. But this is your health we’re talking about and after a short while, those shifts become habits. And we’ve never met anyone who didn’t love the results.

My kids used to look in the fridge and complain; “There’s no food! There’s only stuff to make food!”  Right. They’ll thank me one day.  Maybe.

Next up: Food is simple, Part 3; “Not too much”.

NOTE: For those interested in reading further, Michael Pollan’s Eater’s Manifesto is a great short read. And for a full take on his top three guidelines, there is Food Rules.  Also a fast read, and we’ve got a few copies in the office if you want to borrow one.

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