Here are several of Pollan’s 64 food rules:


Rule 1.  Eat food.  Easier said than done, since 17,000 new products (Pollan calls them “highly processed concoctions” and “edible foodlike substances”) show up in supermarkets annually.

Rule 2.  Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

Rule 4.  Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Rule 7.  Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.

Rule 8.  Avoid food products that make health claims.  “The healthiest food in the supermarket—the fresh produce—doesn’t boast about its healthfulness because the growers don’t have the budget or the packaging.  Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign they have nothing valuable to say about your health.”

Rule 9.  Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or nonfat” in their names.  “The forty-year-old campaign to create low- and nonfat versions of traditional foods has been a failure:  We’re gotten fat on low-fat products.  Why?  Because removing the fat from foods doesn’t necessarily make them nonfattening.  Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low- and nonfat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss. . . . Since the low-fat campaign began in the late 1970s, Americans actually have been eating more than 500 additional calories per day, most of them in the form of refined carbohydrates like sugar.”

Rule 11.  Avoid foods you see advertised on television. 

Rule 13.  Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

Rule 18.  Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.

Rule 19.  If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

Rule 20.  It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.

And here’s Pollan’s final rule:

Rule 64.  Break the rules once in a while.
“Obsessing over food rules is bad for your happiness, and probably for your health, too.  Our experience over the past few decades suggests that dieting and worrying too much about nutrition has made us no healthier or slimmer; cultivating a relaxed attitude toward food is important.

“There will be special occasions when you will want to throw these rules out the window.  All will not be lost (especially if you don’t throw out number 60).

“What matters is not the special occasion but the everyday practice—the default habits that govern your eating on a typical day.  ‘All things in moderation,’ it is often said, but we should never forget the wise addendum, sometimes attributed to Oscar Wilde:  ‘Including moderation.’”

I especially endorse this last rule.  My own rule is to average out, at the end of a week, to have eaten 90% of my food because it’s healthful and 10% of my food because I want to eat it.

In truth, I can’t think of a healthful food that I eat that I don’t enjoy eating.   I just don’t enjoy it quite as much as I enjoy making and eating French silk pie or as much as I enjoy grazing on potato chips, my favorite junk food, at someone’s party.

For a list of some of the surprising ingredients routinely used in the processed foods Americans eat daily, go to

Pollan is the author of other fine books on the subject:  The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Omnivore’s Dilemma for Kids, and In Defense of Food.  Much of what he’s distilled in Food Rules is covered in more detail in In Defense of Food, a book I strongly recommend.

To stay abreast of Lake County Battles Obesity, visit Ron Graham’s blog for the Lake County General Health District at   Visit often.  The life and limb you save may be your own.

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