Trying to eat healthy and clean can be so hard these days with all the different labels to look for and ingredients to steer clear of. Don’t you wish sometimes that someone would just give you the rules to follow? Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules does an excellent job of providing 64 rules to follow for healthy and clean eating. Personally, as great as those rules are, I can’t remember 64! I need just the top 10 food rules to follow. Here are my top 10 food rules from Michael Pollan. Definitely get a copy of his book too though! It’s a great short read that will help you think more critically about what and how you eat.
10 Rules for Eating Healthy and Clean
1.) Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
Very few of us have to be told to eat enough protein or carbohydrates. We all tend to struggle with eating enough vegetables. The My Plate guidelines from USDA recommend half of every meal be fruits and vegetables. The dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists can help you know when eating organic fruits and veggies is most important.
2.) Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients
This rule will help you steer clear of most highly processed foods. 100 Days of Real Food also follows this 5 ingredient rule and is a great resource for healthy and clean recipes. Use your best judgment with this rule though; for example a pasta sauce that is organic but technically has more than 5 ingredients because it lists out basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, garlic shouldn’t be tossed out just because it has a lot of seasonings.
3.) Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
Pretty much every grocery store, Wholefoods, Kroger, Publix, Trader Joes, you name it, stocks their real foods like produce, dairy, meats, and fresh breads along the perimeter of the store; and their processed foods in the aisles in the middle. However the middle aisles aren’t always full of highly-processed junk. There’s lots of whole grains, healthy fats, and nutrient dense- canned or frozen -fruits and veggies to be found there too. For more grocery shopping tips check out this post.
4.) Avoid food products containing ingredients no ordinary human would keep in the pantry
Do you keep maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, or red dye 40 in your pantry? You probably don’t want them in the foods you buy either. Steering clear of ingredients your can’t pronounce or wouldn’t keep in your own pantry will help you avoid a majority of highly processed foods.
5.) It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language
You can go to any country and order a Coke and a Big Mac without having to speak the local language. Foods that are clean and healthy tend to have their own names in every language. For example strawberries are called fraises in French, Erdbeeren in German, jordgubbar in Swedish.
6.) Eat animals that have themselves eaten well
You are what you eat and you are also what your meat eats. Animals that have been raised on antibiotics and steroids and fed diets that fatten them up quickly without regard for what their bodies are designed to eat aren’t going to be the best animals for us to eat.
7.) Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature
Cutting sweets out completely can be really hard to do. So instead of villainizing all sweets, stick to fruits that come packed with natural fiber that helps our bodies digest sugars in the healthiest way possible. Honey also is a great solution for satisfying that sweet tooth and it has a low glycemic index.
8.) Eat all the junk food your want as long as you cook/bake it yourself
Chances are you are not going to bake cookies, make fried chicken, or crank out some ice cream every day. Eating only the junk food you’ve made at home gives your total control over the ingredients as well as helps to naturally limit how often you’ll eat those foods.
9.) Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored (or stressed, or sad, or angry)
Besides the obvious reasons to eat only when you are hungry, Dr. Caroline Leaf warns against eating when we are bored, stressed, sad, or angry because of how our bodies digest the food when we are experiencing such emotions. We actually miss out on nutrients and can make ourselves sick by eating when we are in such emotional states.
10.) Try not to eat alone
When we eat alone, we tend to overeat. Eating with others we tend to eat slower and smaller quantities and we gain not only the nutritional benefits of our meal but the relational and emotional benefits too.