1,240 of 1,268 people found the following review helpful
It is amazing how complicated we have allowed our diets, and our understanding of our diets, to become. Even Pollan's most recent book In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto - which seemed to be a pretty simple premise - ended up being a (wonderfully) complicated journey through our food system. So when I read that this book was coming out, I wondered if it was necessary given the wealth of information already covered. The answer is: yes, this book is necessary.
While there are a million other guides to a healthy diet running around out there, few manage to boil down the essentials in such a usable way. Pollan takes the essential and fascinating information that he wrote about in his previous book and simmers it down into a succinct (the book is basically 70 half pages long) "manual" of rules for eating. While this book retains some of the bones of its predecessor, it is by no means a Cliff's Notes version. This manual is essential reading all on its own.
Food Rules is broken down into 3 sections (and this will sound familiar to those that read In Defense of Food): 1- What should I eat? (Eat food) 2 - What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants) and 3 - How should I eat? (Not too much). Each section includes 20 or so rules that you can pick and choose from in order to eat a healthy diet. Some of the rules overlap (Avoid food products that contain ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce and Avoid ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry, for instance) and some seem like such common sense that it is almost laughable to include them, but that is why this manual is so important. It distills all of this complex information that we see and hear every day and turns it into something relatable. We know, somewhere in our minds, that certain grains and oils are better than others. Pollan gives us an easy rule to help know which ones are best. We know that most breakfast cereals are little more than desserts and Pollan gives us an easy rule to know which ones are safe. Some rules are humorous (it's not food if it arrived through the window of your car) and some are serious; some rules are easy and others require a bit more dedication. But what this manual has is a wide range of useful tips that can be applied to any life at any time. This is no complicated diet; this is a little pocket book of sensible, realistic rules to help you eat your best.
373 of 385 people found the following review helpful
I picked up Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, because I have been searching for just this type of book for many of my clients as a New Year's gift. I read the slim book quickly in a bookstore and it is the perfect present for my clients who are not eating healthy diets (but who have confessed they wish to.)
I am an interior designer/organizer and see how my clients eat all the time when I redesign and organize their kitchens. Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma are both excellent, but can be intimidating. Not Food Rules--it is short and easy to understand.
The book is divided into three parts and has 64 chapters or rules. The following will give you an good idea of what the book is about: Part I, What should I eat? Includes such chapters as "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food", "avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients", and "avoid foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup".
Part II, What kind of food should I eat? Includes "Eat mostly plants, especially leaves", "eat your colors", and "the whiter the bread, the sooner you will be dead."
Part III, How should I eat? Includes "pay more, eat less," "eat less," and "limit your snacks to unprocessed plant food."
For those of you who desire a healthier diet, Food Rules is a terrific guide that makes understanding what to put into your body simple to understand and implement.
Finally, if healthy eating is a new concept for you, you will find the clever chapter titles easy to memorize, thus making the concept of healthy eating a simple one to learn.
By the author of the award winning book, HARMONIOUS ENVIRONMENT and SELL YOUR HOME FAST IN A BUYER'S MARKET
596 of 623 people found the following review helpful
If you got in on the ground floor, you chewed every page of The Omnivore's Dilemma, (464 pages, $8.00 at Amazon).
If you were a second responder, the first Michael Pollan book you read was In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, (256 pages, $7.50 at Amazon), which boils theory and anecdote down to a tasty, healthy feeding strategy.
If you're new to the topic or haven't paid attention --- or love Pollan's work and want to spread the gospel --- here's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (137 pages, $11 retail, $5.50 at Amazon), a skinny paperback that says pretty much everything you'd find in his longer books.
Or you can consider Pollan's reduction of his message to seven words --- "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" --- and read nothing more because you know how to crack that koan and adopt a way of eating that just might save your life.
Why, you may wonder, does a clearly written 256-page book need to be boiled down to 64 general principles?
Those of us who read about food have, in the last few years, been swamped by the language of nutrition. Antioxidants. Polyphenols. Probiotics. Omega-3 fatty acids. But you can know all about this stuff and still not be able to answer the basic question: Yeah, but what should I eat?
Then there are those who have never heard Pollan's message. They're the folks on the coach, eating pre-packaged snack food, sucking down sodas, serving vegetables as an afterthought. In short, people who are devotees of the Western diet --- which is, says Pollan, "the one diet that reliably makes its people sick!"
Pollan wants to help both groups --- and break the cycle of self-created disease.
And the quickest way to do that is through lessons so simple even the guy chowing down a Hungry Man ("It's good to feel full") meal can understand.
"Food Rules" may be short, but it's elegantly organized. Part I addresses the question: What should I eat? (Answer: food.) Part II asks: What kind of food should I eat? (Answer: mostly plants.) And Part II considers: How should I eat? (Answer: Not too much.)
These are un-American answers. Advertising trains us to shop in the center aisles of supermarkets. We've been brainwashed to believe that fast food is food. Because we're so busy, we're encouraged not to cook for ourselves. And that way of living works for us --- right up to the moment we're overweight and diabetic.
But if we break the cycle?
"People who get off the western diet," says Pollan, "see dramatic improvements in their health."
What does Pollan tell you in these pages? Here's a sample:
--- "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
--- "Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce."
---- "Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot...There are exceptions --- honey --- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food."
--- "Always leave the table a little hungry.'"
--- "Eat meals together, at regular meal times."
--- "Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car."
--- "Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk."
Pollan would have you only eat junk food you cook yourself. He'd like you to buy your snacks at a farmer's market. He'd like you to use meat as a flavor enhancer, a condiment, an afterthought. And he'd like to see you hurt the bottom line of pre-packaged food companies by paying a little more for real food that's worth eating.
I can imagine a great many of of you nodding in agreement. And feeling superior. And still buying several copies --- to send, anonymously, to loved ones who are eating themselves to death. I can think of no better gift.
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2010
Most educated folks have heard of Michael Pollan's famous aphoristic summation of dietary advice:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Food Rules fleshes that out a bit, though in a fashion that is both padded and redundant. It is mildly amusing, and some of the 'rules' are likely to stick in the memory: Don't eat cereal that colors the milk. I think the book could find an excellent niche as a departure point for discussion in high school Home Ec and Health classes. College students could profit from it, too. But for those purposes, the 'book' will need to be repackaged in a slimmer and way cheaper form. It's full content should fit nicely in a paperbound pamphlet that could be sold in bulk for less than a dollar a throw.
For adults who want the straight skinny, here is what I was able to extract from Food Rules:
= = = = =
Eat whole foods, as fresh as possible, of known, high quality, local origin - preferably your own garden, prepared in your own household.
Eat plants, especially green leaves, from healthy soil, in great variety, some fermented (eg, sauerkraut). Eat little meat, from healthy-fed/free-range/wild animals, especially small oily fish (eg, sardines).
Consult eating patterns from established cultural traditions (eg, Italian, Japanese), including use of wine. Be wary of novelty (eg, textured soy protein).
Eat actual meals, at mealtimes, at table, with others.
Eat only when you are hungry, eat slowly from small dishes, stop as soon as you stop being hungry.
= = = = =
A food is 'whole' to the extent it has not been messed with. For example, an orange is a whole food; orange juice is not. A food is 'high quality' to the extent it has been produced with relevant skill and care. The rules are not intended to be rigid, but to serve as guidelines to move toward.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Clever little book. . . . Michael Pollan has written a book of rules about eating, with brief text elaborating the statements. On first glance, it looks like a slight volume with little substance to it. However, it turns out to be a pretty interesting book.
In his introductory comments, the author notes a few undeniable truths--Western diets (e.g., processed foods and meats, lots of fat and sugar, etc.) lead to lots of health problems; traditional diets tend to be healthier than the so-called Western diet; when one leaves the Western diet, one tends to get healthier. Following are a number of rules (64 in all). The author's hope? (Page xix): "My hope is that a handful of these rules will prove sufficiently sticky, or memorable, that they will become second nature to you. . . ."
Examples?"Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce" (Page 17). "If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't" (Page 41). "Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food" (Page 53). "Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi" (Page 73). Examples? Yogurt, sauerkraut, soy sauce. . . . "Pay more, eat less" (Page 99). Cheap food in large quantities (supersize me??) is normally not so good for one. "Buy smaller plates and glasses" (Page 115).
In a sense, if one can keep a number of these apothegms in mind and follow those that seem most sensible, one might end up better off! So, a book that looks like a one trick pony ends up being much more satisfying than one might expect.
344 of 417 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2010
I love Pollan's previous book and I was looking forward to this one. I got my hands on it as soon as I could, but sadly, I was disappointed.
This book is just a (really)watered down version of In Defense of Food. Don't waste your time or your money on this book, especially if you already read his other books. It was kind of a sell-out thing to do: publish a book that takes exact passages from the last book he published, increase the font size, add a ton of blank pages and big pictures and then sell the thing for $11. Um... why? He should have just published an article in the NY Times magazine instead of a whole book. Why waste all that paper?
Thank goodness I work in a bookstore and didn't actually have to buy the thing to read it. If you really think you want this book, I suggest flipping through it first, or getting it from a library. It's not worth $11.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2010
People complaining about the size of "Food Rules" certainly missed the point. In Twitterland, any message that can't be reduced from "bullet points" to 140 characters will not be heard. The Eloi don't read books. Food Rules compresses the message of Pollan's food advice into its second simplest form.
Pollan mentions in the introduction his discovery, while researching In Defense of Food, that the answer to the question, "What should we eat to stay healthy?" turned out to be seven words: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." As he points out wrily, that wasn't enough to satisfy his publisher, but fortunately explaining it was. Food Rules is the middle ground between The Three Commandments and the Food Bible. Clearly it is needed, if one hostile reviewer thinks his "Don't eat more calories than you burn each day, and eat a balanced diet" is comparable to Pollan's seven words.
Food Rules consists of 64 aphorisms with a few paragraphs of explanation as needed (no rule runs much beyond a single page). Like the Tao Te Ching, Food Rules can be stuffed in a back pocket, thumbed through when you are bored, or purchased for a clueless friend you care about. The rules are common sense, unless you suffer from the literalism of some reviewers (No, gentle reader, Mr. Pollan did not mean MY grandmother, who was a rotten cook, but the proverbial grandmother, who is not). Common sense distilled to aphorisms rather than platitudes, Poor Richard's Culinary Advice. In other words they are crisp, memorable, and quotable. Who wouldn't wish they had thought up, "Don't eat any cereal that changes the color of the milk"?
For the Twitterpated, this is the place to begin with Pollan. Some of them, at least, may discover that they would like to know more. If not, no harm done.
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2010
Don't let the fact that it's 112 pages long throw you, this is maybe 10 pages worth of information. Granted, it's GOOD information (for the most part). Handy rules to help you wade through the nightmare of American supermarkets and culture. I'm glad to see Amazon is only charging 5 dollars for it, because anything more than that would be a rip. If you look up his New York Times article, it's mostly the same information, just not broken down into clear rules.
Between pages 30 and 37 there are 11 (eleven) sentences.
There's no reason this needed to be over a hundred pages long.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2010
For me, Pollan points out a ton of ideas that are in my mind common sense. I think this is a great book for the person who eats out 5-7 days a week and has no idea how to cook anything. Also a good book for people that think chips and pretzels is an acceptable dinner. But for the majority of people who actually have interest in a book like this, we probably already have a good idea of what we should and shouldn't be eating.
So, I'd say, it was just so-so. As the very least, it takes about an hour to read so it won't waste too much of your time.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2010
This book is just the Cliff Notes version of the book In Defense of Food. Just take the time to read the real book. So much better. But if you must, you can read it while standing in the store. It is that quick.