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What to Eat Paperback – April 17, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How do we choose what to eat? Buffeted by health claims--should we, for example, restrict our intake of carbs or fats or both? Is organic food better for us?--we become confused and tune out. In supermarkets we buy semi-consciously, unaware that our choices are carefully orchestrated by sophisticated marketing strategies concerned only with the bottom line. That we should confront such persuasion is the major point made by nutritionist-consumer advocate Marion Nestle in her extraordinary What to Eat, an aisle-by-aisle guide to supermarket buying and thus an anatomy of American food business. "The way food is situated in today's society discourages healthful food choices," Nestle tells us, a fact that finds literal representation in our supermarkets, where food placement--dependant on "slotting fees," guaranteed advertising and other incentives--determines every purchase we make.

Nestle walks readers through every supermarket section--produce, meat, fish, dairy, packaged foods, bottled waters, and more--decoding labels and clarifying nutritional and other claims (in supermarket-speak, for example, "fresh" means most likely to spoil first, not recently picked or prepared), and in so doing explores issues like the effects of food production on our environment, the way pricing works, and additives and their effect on nutrition.

What Nestle reveals is both discouraging and empowering. Through ubiquitous advertising, almost universal food availability, the growth of portion size, and unchecked marketing to kids, we’re encouraged to eat more than we need, with consequent negative impact on our health. Knowledge is indeed power, and Nestle's lively, witty, and thoroughly enlightening book--the work, readers quickly see, of a food lover intent on increasing sensual satisfaction at table as well as promoting health--will help its readers become completely cognizant about food shopping. It's a must for anyone who eats and buys food and wants to do both better. --Arthur Boehm --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

According to nutritionist Nestle (Food Politics), the increasing confusion among the general public about what to eat comes from two sources: experts who fail to create a holistic view by isolating food components and health issues, and a food industry that markets items on the basis of profits alone. She suggests that, often, research findings are deliberately obscure to placate special interests. Nestle says that simple, common-sense guidelines available decades ago still hold true: consume fewer calories, exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables and, for today's consumers, less junk food. The key to eating well, Nestle advises, is to learn to navigate through the aisles (and thousands of items) in large supermarkets. To that end, she gives readers a virtual tour, highlighting the main concerns of each food group, including baby, health and prepared foods, and supplements. Nestle's prose is informative and entertaining; she takes on the role of detective, searching for clues to the puzzle of healthy and satisfying nutrition. Her intelligent and reassuring approach will likely make readers venture more confidently through the jungle of today's super-sized stores. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477384
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003. She also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.

She has held faculty positions at Brandeis University and the UCSF School of Medicine. From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health.

Her research examines scientific, economic, and social influences on food choice and obesity, with an emphasis on the role of food marketing.

She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (California Press, 2002, revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (California Press, 2003, revised edition 2010), and What to Eat (North Point Press, 2006). Her latest book, Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, was published by California Press in 2008. Feed Your Pet Right, co-authored with Malden Nesheim, will be published by Free Press in May, 2010.

She writes the Food Matters column for the San Francisco Chronicle, and blogs daily (almost) at www.foodpolitics.com and for the Atlantic Food Channel at http://amcblogmte4.atlantic-media.us/food/nutrition.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Wow! What a Book!

In my quest to eat better and find the true meaning behind food companies claims of how healthy their products are I found Marion Nestle's book `Food Politics', while it was interesting my eyes started to glaze over (I'm not really fond of politics or boring text-book books). I gained a little knowledge that food companies could not be trusted in what they preach about their products because their sole purpose is to sell their products not for the consumer's health.

Then I found she had a new book coming, `What to Eat'. I already knew that Nestle had years of experience as a nutritionist and was more impartial to a person's health than promoting something. You can pretty much bet she wasn't on a payroll of a food company or work for the government, though she was on a national committee a while back, since she really dressed them down for irresponsibility to the public.

I am surprised and saddened to find that the government who is supposed to watch out for the welfare of their people take contributions in the millions to `look the other way' while corporations are allowed to throw out claims that sugary, over processed, artificially colored and flavored foods are whole grain and healthy for a balanced diet.

This is one of the reasons I read this book. Artificial sweeteners give me headaches but when I looked on the internet about them I read from one end of the pendulum in `it's healthy and good for you' to the other `its cancer forming and bad for you'. Who do you believe? You know a good share of these websites are the producers of the products and their competition.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every now and then a book or two comes along that makes me want to get on the phone to friends or email friends to tell them they must read the book. This happened this past week when What to Eat by Marion Nestle and Gone Tomorrow the Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers arrived at my cottage.

Starting with this book 'What to Eat' the author does an excellent job of explaining the psychology of food from its invention (since so much is man made or processed), to the thousand mile journey it makes, even if organic, to most grocery stores, and the vast amount of waste that is involved in getting even organic fruits and vegetables to your local grocer. And that local grown fruits and vegetables are often turned down for local sale in grocery stores, but packed and shipped across country, all as part of a man made game plan. As is the label game and how many label issues are voluntary and not mandated like for genetically modified foods.

Her section on dairy is good. Personally I buy organic milk from here in northern California and no matter where we have lived I have sought out locals who would allow me to make a 'donation' for their raw milk, since I prefer to make my own yogurt, butter, cheese etc. The taste of regular homogenized milk from the store tastes horrid to me. Probably because its altered so much to allow for weeks on the grocery shelf. How I wish people would demand that their grocer carry dairy products from humane farms that are also whole and healthy.

Her section on meat is equally interesting. As she notes well, those who cull (kill, slaughter) the meat Americans eat work for low wages in very dangerous conditions, with the buyer all to willing to ignore just what happens to get that piece of meat on ones dinner table or fast food meal.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book after reading two of Michael Pollan's books and "Real Food: What to Eat and Why" by Nina Planck, and I have to say I was disappointed by this book. I think she's too critical of things that don't merit criticism (probiotics, healthiness of fish, saturated fat from nutrient dense foods such as pastured chicken eggs etc.) and not critical enough of topics that deserve harsher criticism (rBST, polyunsatured oils, oxidized cholesterol in low-fat dairy). I think she missed an opportunity to inform people about what are very reasonable arguments questioning the validity of the importance of blood cholesterol levels. And any one of the millions of women who eat yogurt to prevent yeast infections during antibiotic use can attest to the usefulness of probiotics!

I also think she glosses over the nutritional differences between organic and non-organic produce, eggs and meat, which can be substantial. Explanations are somewhat simplistic and people with prior nutrition and/or science backgrounds will likely be frustrated by overly-simplified claims and explanations and the lack of detailed specific explanations about nutrients and why they are important.

Overall, this book provides a very basic overview of nutrition according to the status quo and gives the impression that nutritionists have it all figured out now, when in fact they don't. Her sources for bold claims are rarely quoted. She refers to studies generally, but not specifically. It's almost as if she drew conclusions by reading only the abstracts of many journal articles without reading the entire article.
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