Michael Pollan Counts Down
His Favorite New Rules
In addition to dozens of illustrations by Maira Kalman, Michael Pollan has also added nineteen new rules to the illustrated edition of Food Rules. Every day leading up to the book’s release on November 1, Michael posted a favorite new rules here.
#1. Give Some Thought to Where Your Food Comes From
To take a moment before a meal to reflect on the work, and the wonder, involved in the process that brings food from the earth to your table is to eat it with both more pleasure and more consciousness. Whether you actually say grace out loud or simply reflect in silence on this everyday miracle, the practice fosters more mindful eating. And mindfulness helps us to eat more slowly and more sanely. “This meal is the labor of countless beings,” goes one Zen blessing offered before eating. “Let us remember their toil.”
#2. Place a Bouquet of Flowers on the Table and Everything Will Taste Twice as Good
#3. Order the Small
Because in this era of supersized portions, small is the new large—and is plenty. According to Lisa Young, the author of The Portion Teller Plan, when McDonald’s first opened, the soda came in one size: seven ounces. now, a “small” soda is sixteen ounces, medium is twenty-one, and large is thirty-two—a full quart of soda. At Burger King, what was a large in 1965—sixteen ounces—is now a small. Restaurant portions of food have ballooned as well: consider ordering off the children’s menu or sharing an entrée.”
#4. If You’re Not Hungry Enough to Eat an Apple, Then You’re Probably Not Hungry
This little thought experiment is a good way to assess whether your desire to eat is really based on hunger or something else. If the idea of eating an apple doesn’t appeal to you, then chances are you’re reaching for food out of habit, boredom, or sadness. The urge will pass. But if you find the idea does appeal, then go ahead: have an apple.
#5. “No Labels on the Table”
Keep logos and food packaging off the dinner table. Even if you’re having takeout, take the food out of the containers and put it on a platter or plate. You’ll eat more slowly and enjoy the food more. It’s hard to savor a leisurely meal when surrounded by commercial messages and incipient trash.
#6. Don’t Become a Short-Order Cook
When kids learn to think of the dinner table as a restaurant, they’ll eat the way most people do in restaurants: too much. For adults as well as kids, eating whatever is being served is generally a good policy, unless religion or allergy prohibits doing so. The food industry promotes hyperindividualism in eating—giving people exactly what they want exactly when they want it—because doing so helps them to sell more food. It also leads to overeating. When we eat what is served, rather than what we might order or crave, we tend to eat more moderately.
#7. Enjoy Drinks That Have Been Caffeinated by Nature, Not Food Science
Coffee and tea can make us happy, alert, and more energetic, which might help explain why scientists have worked so hard to find something wrong with them. At one time or another, these traditional caffeinated beverages have been linked to heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and bone loss, but so far coffee and tea have been exonerated on every count. And in fact the antioxidants in coffee and tea (as well as in chocolate, which also contains caffeine) may do us some good. Too much caffeine can make people jittery and anxious, however, and the jury is still out on the new generation of caffeinated energy drinks. So at least for now, you’re probably better off getting your caffeine, in moderation, from a plant rather than a factory.