I bought Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan, as a Christmas present for my boyfriend and I. After reading it through a couple times, I found a few rules I was interested in following. Now six months into this experiment I’ve found it was much easier than I thought to change some of my eating habits. The gist is to eat real food, in reasonable size portions, and what is seasonally available near you. At least, those were the main points I wanted to follow. The hardest rules were ones that required a clean out of the pantry and refrigerator.
The hardest rules to follow at first was to eat things with less than five ingredients and stay away from anything a fifth grader can’t pronounce, which I changed to anything I can’t pronounce. Deciding to follow these rules my boyfriend and I went through all our groceries, and found things we decided to toss out, and things we would finish and never buy again. It took me all of about 10 minutes to realize there wasn’t a cereal I could think of that fit into the rules. Breakfast would have to change.
Most junk food was out, and most snack food. This was actually not as hard to deal with. I realized that by eating better food, I wasn’t looking for snacks. There is the occasional candy bar from the vending machine at work, but I end up regretting it every time, or I can’t finish. My savoir at snack times are Lärabars. Filling, surprising good, and all the ingredients are actually real things. Any sugar in them is from natural sugars in the food used to make them. You can actually make them yourself if you had the time – I chose to buy them…in bulk.
Pop was another issue. I’ve given it up many times now, and am pretty good at going caffeine free for long periods of time. But I love ginger ale! It’s the one vice I wasn’t willing to give up. Luckily there is always a solution. And in this case, in tastes better too. I started getting ginger ale from Whole Foods, which has their own brand, and doesn’t include corn syrup, but real cane sugar. (My boyfriend had been trying to ban excesses of corn syrup in the house since reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, also by Michael Pollan.) Anyways, the Whole Foods brand is good, but I then discovered Hansens, which is also made with cane sugar, and somehow tastes better.
I dreaded the first few months of eating seasonally. Trying to start such an experiment in the mid-Atlantic during the winter was probably not the best idea, but I survived two months of greens. With one weak moment between two major snowstorms when I broke down and fought to get one of the last packages of mixed berries at the store, I believe I did well. The first sight of fruit this past spring at the farms market made me so happy I could have danced in the street. Maybe I did, I don’t remember. But I’m taking it in all in now, enjoying every strawberry and tomato I can, hoping that by September I will be begging for apples and squash.
The best things to come out of this little journey I am now determined to continue on, are learning to eat and cook new things, knowing what is available locally when – which has also helped me pay more attention to where food is from at the grocery store, and I actually feel better. I realize the last can seem like a line a doctor or nutritionist will try to feed you, but it’s true.
Eating more fruits and veggies in general, knowing what vitamins I get from them and what I need to make up for has made a difference. I hardly miss the caffeine, only occasionally on weekends having tea or coffee. Dropping caffeine on a regular basis was a big bonus for me, in treating migraines. It’s the only time I actually drink Coke, which now in fact, tastes so different and odd to me I don’t think I could start drinking daily again. The overall change in diet seems to have made a difference in the number of migraines I get, in addition to other changes I’ve made in my daily life. Huge bonus!
Now, Food Rules is actually the only of Michael Pollan’s books I’ve read. There are others in my house, and I do plan to read them, but this is one has given me more to think about and act on than I know the other will. I will still read though, as I’ve promised a few people awhile back I would.
The next Food Rule I’m going to try: smaller dinner plates. Seriously – smaller plate, smaller serving!