There was once a time when I could simply opt for 100% wheat bread over white bread and feel good about this decision. But now I'm hearing that it's all a scam and most wheat breads still contain "partially hydrogenated soybean oil" and "high fructose corn syrup," so I might as well eat white bread and save a few cents along the way (I still eat wheat bread though).
Soda is obviously bad for you because of the amount of sugar/high fructose corn syrup, so drink diet soda. But wait, now diet soda is not good either, maybe even worse, because it contains aspartame. But if this Cherry 7Up contains antioxidants, it must be okay, right? Similarly, women are told to drink a glass of red wine a day but no more than that or you increase your risk for breast cancer. And apparently Raisin Bran is one of the worst cereals out there despite containing the words "raisin" and "bran." Don't even get me started on milk.
Eating right has become way too complicated these days. The lines separating what's good and bad for you are much less perceptible thanks to an industry riddled with false advertising, misleading claims, and caveats. As the world becomes more obsessed with health, we're also becoming more confused about it.
So what can we do about it?
In pursuit of some answers, I recently read "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual." In this (rather small, yet concise) book, the author, Michael Pollan, makes the distinction between what we should and should not eat through a set of 64 rules -- rules that are simple and easy to understand. Like one of my favorites, Rule #21: It's not food if it's called the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles). In addition, some of these rules suggest how we should eat-- how often, in what quantity, etc.
But while easy to understand, not all are easy to follow. Like Rule #4: Avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. Really? That stuff is everywhere. And #19: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't. So... am I supposed to become some kind of Hunter/Gatherer? As a result, the book is broken down into three sections, and he asks that we choose at least one or two rules from each category to fit into our lifestyle.
Here are the rules I liked the most and want to try to live by:
Rule #10: Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not. This one is easy. I've always been one to avoid non-fat, low-fat, diet, imitation, and artificial sweeteners whenever possible...
Rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. This one is a challenge. It comes from the idea that most junk food (fried chicken, baked goods, etc) are a pain to make, and in the past were reserved only for celebrations and special occasions. Conversely, today, they are probably the most obtainable foods out there and are consumed on a regular basis. So if you make a point to eat it only as often as you'd be willing to make it, you'd be inclined to eat it less often. (Not sure how I'm going to fare with this one).
Rule #60: Treat treats as treats. This is so self-explanatory and aligns somewhat with the previous rule: everything in moderation. Reserve that chocolate cake or apple pie for special occasions.
While it's still a confusing world out there, this book makes some interesting and valid points on eating. It provides a new perspective on some things, and, in other ways, reinforces or simplifies what we already know or may have forgotten. If you have an hour or two to spare (and a library close by), I suggest checking it out.