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, were 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
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)
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