Michael Pollan's Rules for Eating

Michael pollan smiling

healthy plate of food, including bread, hummus, avocado, and tomatoWhen asked about the biggest misperception around healthy eating, Michael Pollan answers almost immediately: “It’s much simpler than people think.”

“We have done an amazing job in this society of complicating what for every other animal is a pretty straightforward process: finding a suitable diet, enjoying it, and moving on,” he told Taking Charge during a visit to the University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing.  “When I tried to figure out if I could offer any really simple guidance for eating, it came down to seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

How to eat food

Pollan, who has been writing about food for a quarter century, outlines his research in several popular books, including Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and, most recently, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, in which he brings his food systems knowledge to the kitchen to explore various ways of preparing healthy meals at home. His visit to the University of Minnesota was hosted by the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing as part of its Nourishing Minnesota initiative, which aims to inspire healthy food choices in the public - something Pollan is well-known for doing through his simple food rules.

“Eat food,” the first of his guidelines, might feel unnecessary, but Pollan says there are actually two types of food out there: Real Food, and Edible Food-Like Substances. You know the difference: an apple versus a fast-food burger. A sweet potato versus a bag of Cheetos. One comes out of the earth in a fairly simple form, and the other is highly processed. If you can tell the difference between these two, says Pollan, and mostly stick to Real Foods (especially plants) in healthy portions (not too much), then you’ve basically got healthy eating figured out.