Review: Food Rules: An Eaters Manual

Penguin, $11
book byMichael Pollan
review by Lee Stabert

Food Rules is basically the CliffsNotes version of Michael Pollan’s last two books—The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. But that’s not a diss: This little collection of tips and food facts offers plenty of practical, distilled information. Even for committed Pollan-ites, it’s a quick, breezy refresher, and a nice motivation for re-commitment to whole foods and sustainable eating. 

Pollan’s goal is to cut through the din of diet and nutrition advice that is constantly bombarding American consumers. The simple adage at the heart of In Defense of Food remains central here: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” 

The first part turns out to be the most difficult in our post-industrial food culture, but Pollan offers easy-to-follow advice for spotting highly processed foods: shop the perimeter of the grocery store, don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, avoid food products that list more than five ingredients, avoid ingredients that a third grader can’t pronounce. 

Pollan also encourages people to eat when they’re actually hungry, consume less meat (and only from animals that have themselves eaten well) and cut down on junk food. That said, Pollan is no drill sergeant: He is obviously a food lover himself, and this book is also a reminder to enjoy the act of eating—to cook, drink wine and savor long, carefully prepared meals with friends and family.