Food rules : an eater's manual

by Michael Pollan

Paperback, 2009




New York : Penguin Books, 2009.


Presents a set of rules for eating wisely in accordance with a variety of ethnic and cultural traditions, sharing guidelines for making grocery choices and dining out.

User reviews

LibraryThing member subbobmail
First he wrote an exhaustive tome called "The Omnivore's Dilemma," then he wrote a slimmer book entitled "In Defense of Food" -- and now Michael Pollan has boiled his dietary recommendations down to this near-pamphlet, "Food Rules." (His next publication will be just a collection of pictures in which he points to vegetables while giving a thumbs-up.) The rules are sensible in the extreme, and catchy. Examples: "If it came from a plant, it eat; if it was made in a plant, don't." A handy and worthy book, though a bit overpriced at $12. Can't somebody just make a pretty poster out of these rules? Come on, a perfectly symmetrical 8x8 grid!… (more)
LibraryThing member jsonin
Food Rules is to eating what Elements of Style is to writing.

Food - from the growing to consumption to the entire system surrounding it - is a top 5 global issue. We're eating ourselves to death. This is Michael Pollan's excellent manifesto... that fits in your pocket and reads in 20 min.
LibraryThing member ctpress
After watching the four part miniseries Cooked on Netflix I got interested in Pollan’s thoughts on food. I was considering his more lengthy history of food [In Defense of Food] but settled for this - sort of a distilled version of Pollan’s philosophy on how to eat more healthy and better food.

It’s very short and every “rule” or “personal policies” as he rather wants them to be is followed by a few short remarks. Gathered from experts, his own observations or Sicilian grandmothers. It’s a lot of fun and food for thought.

Here some memorable rules and quotes:

“Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs, and other mammals).”

“Leave something on your plate... 'Better to go to waste than to waist”.

“Use the apple test: “If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry.”

“As grandmothers used to say, 'Better to pay the grocer than the doctor”

Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce

It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car

It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles)

Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself
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LibraryThing member TomWaitsTables
[Food Rules] is a short rulebook on how to eat healthily. Pollan has compiled all of the collective food wisdom of our grandmothers and the eating habits of traditional food cultures (for example, the French, Italians, & Sicilians as opposed to the British, American, and Madison Avenue), and then used science (I'm taking him at his word here) to weed out the ones that don't work, before distilling them into 64 simple rules on how to avoid processed "edible food-like substances" and actually use your taste buds instead of just recharging your battery. It's short, simple, and small enough to keep in your glove compartment (reminding me that "It's not food if it came from the window of your car.") or purse.

I, like most people I know, never gave much thought (or cared) about what I ate. But I needed an extra item to put me over the top so I wouldn't have to pay for shipping, and I came across [Food Rules] (very savvy, Amazon). Plus, Bill Moyers had vouched for Michael Pollan (but for his [In Defense of Food], not [Food Rules]), so I added it to my cart. That it turned out to be an insightful book turned out to be a bonus.

I've included some rules from the book, in case anyone wanted an idea about what's inside the book. I wish I could say I put some thought into picking them out, but I just wrote them as I came across them while flipping through the book. You could see it as laziness or a genuine attempt to be fair by selecting them at random so that you might make your own decision without bias . . . Yep, I'm just lazy. Anyway, here they are:

"The banquet is in the first bite."

"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't."

"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."

"Better to pay the grocer than the doctor."

"Better to go to waste than to (the) waist."

"Don't eat breakfast cereals that change to color of your milk."

"The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead."

The final word? It's useful enough that you should consider buying it. Just don't pay $11.00 (plus S&H) for it when you can get it for $5.00 on
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LibraryThing member goodmanbrown
Food Rules is a list of maxims about eating. Some maxims get no elaboration; most get a little blurb expanding the point. The book takes about twenty minutes to read, and I don't know who could benefit from reading it.

Food Rules is basically a quick and dirty abstract of In Defense of Food. For people who have read Pollan's earlier stuff-- either Defense or Omnivore's Dilemma-- there's nothing new here. There's no reason for that crowd to buy this bloated pamphlet.

For people who haven't read his earlier stuff, I'd think Food Rules would be annoying. None of the rules gets any justification. If you aren't already on board with the project, the rules sometimes seem arbitrary. Here's rule 10 in its entirety (it takes up two pages of the book):

"AVOID FOODS THAT ARE PRETENDING TO BE SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT. Imitation butter-- aka margarine-- is the classic example. To make something like nonfat cream cheese that contains neither cream nor cheese requires an extreme degree of processing; such products should be labeled as imitations and avoided. The same rule applies to soy-based mock meats, artificial sweeteners, and fake fats and starches."

Ok. But I like mock duck. Morningstar Farms' fake chicken nuggets are pretty delicious. I'm willing to consider the possibility that I should cut these things out of my diet, but Pollan hasn't given me a reason to-- he's just asserted that I should. Why should I believe him and not the blurbs on the mock duck packaging?

Of course Pollan does give reasons for most of these rules in his earlier books. Those are great books. They are beautifully written and well researched. Read those instead.

I hope Pollan's views on food and eating continue to influence our culture. If this book contributes to his influence I'll be happy. But I don't see how Food Rules will help. I wish I'd spent my money on some nice broccoli, instead.
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LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
This is a quick-to-read book which gives Michael Pollan’s sensible advice about what we should eat (food), what kind of food (mostly plants), and how much (not too much). There’s not much here that he hasn’t said in a much more interesting way in his previous books, especially the book entitled The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The book is kind of cute, but I’m ready for another in-depth book by this journalist about any subject. It does not even have to be about food.… (more)
LibraryThing member JackieBlem
This book is simple, concise, and clear. While Pollan is capable of some of the most fascinating and detailed science writing, this time he boils his last two books down into 64 "Rules" that are short and easy to remember. I'm recommending this book to book clubs because of the wealth of discussion topics these rules open up. It doesn't take long to read, but it certainly lingers in the mind (especially when you're breaking a rule, lol!).… (more)
LibraryThing member yonoleo
Most of what you'll find in this book is based on common sense. Sadly, common sense is not that common these days. This is a simple and fresh reminder of things about food and eating that people shouldn't have forgotten in the first place.
LibraryThing member kbrelyea10
quick but good. struggling to remember rules long-term
LibraryThing member njteacher70
Food Rules is a quick and easy read that tells us how and what we should eat for a healthy, longer life. Some of the maxims are easy to follow and actionable--"Only eat sweets on 'S' days," for instance, or "Avoid foods with more than five ingredients."

All very sound, sensible advice, and many will find it useful. But really, there's nothing new here. Doesn't everyone already know what one should and shouldn't eat? Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid processed food and sweets, and limit portions.… (more)
LibraryThing member seph
I've read a lot of books on nutrition and diet, and this is, hands down, the most useful and helpful. It was a quick read too. I picked it up last night when I was having trouble getting to sleep, and finished it an hour later. There's nothing new in here, but that's the point. Here is a collection of conventional wisdom when it comes to food, eating and how humanity survived and thrived for many thousands of years. This is all the stuff we forgot when food production became industrialized, calories became as affordable and easy to come by as the cheap chemicals used in their production, and the ever expanding girth of our waistlines became an epidemic. The information in this book is good stuff to know, an excellent touchstone bringing us back to some common sense when it comes to our dietary practices. These aren't hard and fast rules full of modern nutritional lingo that you must learn and live by; these are very plainly worded common sense guidelines to keep in mind when you're grocery shopping or menu planning or feeling snacky. Knowing these things will not only help you make good nutritional decisions, but it will also renew your passion for good food and the pleasures of eating, and even take the guilt out of the occasional treats. This is a book that has the potential to vastly improve the health of many people world-wide. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member KinnicChick
I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Pollan's latest book. He has condensed his research and given it to us in an easy-to-swallow and remember listing of guidelines broken out under his main three headings: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.

He left out the scientific factoids that can be found in his other books and just gave the headlines here. You can read it in an hour and carry the knowledge forever.

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LibraryThing member dr_zirk
Food Rules is a convenient distillation of ideas that Michael Pollan has explored more in-depth in some of his other books. It's short, sweet, and a breezy read that nonetheless contains much that is worthwhile and thought-provoking. Given the brevity of the format, the author doesn't devote any space to footnotes or references, so if you want the detailed evidence, you'll have to turn to one of Pollan's other volumes on the same general subject.… (more)
LibraryThing member ChemChick
Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" was an outstanding book, a game-changer that made you see the food you eat in a whole new light. "Food Rules" is his latest in a series of books his publisher must be forcing him to put together, condensing his thoughtful message into smaller and shorter soundbites. Do yourself a favor, take the time to read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" instead.… (more)
LibraryThing member Brown
This book is very well written, as would be expected from an accomplished journalist. It is also short on reliable information and full of misinformation. Hence, those who read it are liable to be influenced in the wrong direction on many points. It is too bad that the filler used to make the book thick enough to have something to sell is not as good as the three little maxims upon which the book is based.… (more)
LibraryThing member indigo7
The title food "Rules" is a misnomer since no rules for eating really exist. This is a short reference book and reminds us that food choices are especially important for good health.
LibraryThing member NellieMc
Quick, easy to read, practical, not dogmatic, not preachy, not scary, just common sense -- the perfect guide to eating by someone who is not on a soap box or member of the food police. I'd like to give this to everyone I know.
LibraryThing member she_climber
Quick, easy read with down-to-earth advice on how to eat healthly. This is a book I will be re-reading several times to instill most, if not, all the "rules" in my mind.
LibraryThing member jrtanworth
Easy to read short version of everything you wanted to know about nutrition for humans. Rules are easy to remember and put into practice when you hit the grocery. Enjoyed the humor -- especially the rule suggested by a reader which Pollan turned down, "Only one meat per pizza."
LibraryThing member ceruleandaze
Easy to read, this great little book lays out 64 pretty simple, though sometimes embarrassingly obvious, nuggets of wisdom that we've probably all seen but not all in one place, maxims and suggestions one can try living by to eat and live more healthily. Some are subtle, like #1, "Eat food", encouraging us to remember the real meaning of that word; or simple and direct, like #63, "Cook", which could be a life-changing experience for some. Other rules are practical suggesti... (show more)The book is split into three parts that follow Pollan's own maxim for living a more healthy life... "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." So simple yet often so hard in the processed societies many of us live in. There's something for everyone here to learn and change by, remember and live by. For those who want research details for all the rules, see Pollan's previous book, "In Defense of Food". Originally written on Feb 02, 2010 at 01:13PM… (more)
LibraryThing member juliana_t
A great little book; a good companion to Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan is able to condense information into easily digestible and memorable rules.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
LibraryThing member cbobbitt
Direct, easy-to-follow advice about healthy dietary habits.
LibraryThing member EowynA
This is an excellent, brief guide on what to eat, when. There are 64 rules, one per page (mostly). Some are simply another way of looking at a preceding rule. As the introduction says, they all boil down to - Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. Small book, excellent advice. 5 stars.
LibraryThing member cattiecannslugg
I was quite upset when I received this book. It is just a concise version of In Defense of Food (which I had already read). So, if you want to skip the longer version of the book, than this is the book to get. If you want to get more from a book than rules on eating - don't get this book.
LibraryThing member njmom3
This books distills a lot of information into a short set of common sense food ideas. Nothing really new, but nice for a quick reminder when you need. The book can be read in one sitting.


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