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What to Eat Hardcover – May 2, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 130 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

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1 edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477049
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Young on June 1, 2006
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: 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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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent and well researched work on the wares sold in most supermarkets (and drug stores, in the case of supplements). I consider myself pretty well versed in most of the topics covered by Marion Nestle, but I learned A LOT from this text. As a researcher and nutritionist, Nestle certainly has the background to treat this subject and her writing flows easily. In short, this book is quite easy to read (and there's no need to read it in order--I skipped from chapter to chapter, reading whatever I was interested in at the moment). Although I, as well as another reviewer, found her "surprise" at supermarkets a bit silly and the format of the book (based on the aisles of a supermarket) a little contrived, I am still glad I purchased and read this book. The chapters on fish, especially, are superb, as are those on dairy and supplements. (NOTE: I have not read her "Food Politics", so I don't know how much she's already covered in that text). This is an excellent source of food-related information and a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in what he or she eats.

That said, I'm only giving it 4 stars instead of 5. I find no fault with the book's factual material. However, when Ms. Nestle starts venturing into food criticism (telling the reader what tastes "best"--uh, "best" is a highly subjective term and Ms. Nestle is a nutritionist, not a restaurant reviewer or food critic). She does have a tendency to come across condescendingly or as a know-it-all (which she surely does if the topic is industry manipulation and nutrition). Also (earth to Marion, come in Marion), we don't all live in Manhattan and we may not have access to all-organic, hearth-baked, TRUE artisanal bread.
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