My 6 Favorite “Food Rules”

So, you may have noticed that I’m super into healthy living.  And I really want to pass on relevant information to my kid and pretty much anyone who will listen to me.  I love my products, but as we always note on NMDL, it’s what you put in your body that is most important.  I’m not an expert in nutrition, but in teaching college level human anatomy and physiology to healthcare-career directed students for the past 20 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about the topic.  Michael Pollan has been incredibly important in pointing out the research that validates my intuitive knowledge of food based on my personal experiences.  I routinely recommend his books to my students.  There’s one in particular that is fantastic for everyone.  You don’t need any background in nutrition to get potentially life changing information from Food Rules.

I first read Food Rules aloud with my son years ago, when he was about seven.  I would read one rule, then he’d read the next, and we picked together which ones we thought we could best follow.

There are 64 rules, but you don’t have to use them all to get significant benefit, and they are all super simple and straightforward.  Pollan describes each rule with a bit of science or historical significance, but the details are covered in his other works, namely In Defense of Food (Omnivore’s Dilemma is another great read).  Pollan is a journalist, not a nutritionist, but is well respected for his research into food and the food industry.

Here are my favorite Rules, the ones I do my best to follow:

#14 Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature. I personally take this one a little further – I prefer to eat food as close to the way it grows out of the earth as possible, meaning mostly raw.

#25  Eat your colors. That one is pretty obvious (and delicious).

#30 Eat well-grown food from healthy soil. And if eating animals (I don’t, but my family does) make sure the animals were themselves healthy.

#33 Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi. I love many fermented foods, like kombucha and miso.

#46 Stop eating before you’re full. I digest much better if I shoot for 75-80% of what would make me feel “full.”  Basically, I’m not aiming for full, I want to feel “not hungry.”

#54 “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” I modify this by eating a substantial breakfast, but I like lunch to be my biggest meal of the day.

If you’ve read the book, which Rules do you follow?  Or have you created your own?

17 Responses to “My 6 Favorite “Food Rules””
  1. Madelene says:

    Nice rules.
    My rules is:
    1. My body is my temple
    2.Dont listen to anyone saying “a little doesnt hurt”
    3.When it prosesses thru my body,what happens? Does my body appreciate it?
    4. Does it make me ill or good?
    5.What happens when i eat it?
    6.Can my brain take it?
    7. Can i get pimples of it?
    8. Is it natural
    9.Does it have colors?
    10.Does it make you stronger?


  2. comagirl says:

    My food rule comes from the first sentence in In Defense of Food: Eat Food. Not too much. Monstly plants.

  3. comagirl says:


  4. Greta says:

    I haven’t read Food Rules, but I do like Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. It was the first book I read that piqued my interest about the food industry.

    It’s hard for me to think of food in terms of “rules,” mostly because of my history of disordered eating… it took a long time for me to break my rigid eating habits, and it’s not something I want to return to. I guess the best way to describe the way I eat is in “loose guidelines,” because I don’t freak if I tend to stray from them. Everything in moderation, right?

    1. Slow down while I eat, and try not to multi-task
    2. Honor my body’s natural hunger cues
    3. Eat food that I actually enjoy, and am excited to eat
    4. Stay as close as possible to meals from scratch

  5. Food is an area where I tend to indulge. I hate to feel deprived or like I cannot eat something. It can make me obsessive over the forbidden food. So last year, I decided my rule would be to drink only water. I would deprive myself of no food whatsoever but my beverage of choice would be water only. I love to dress up my water with lemons, limes, cucumbers, mint, peeled ginger. I feel so much better and it has encouraged healthier eating as a whole for me.

  6. chloe says:

    Pollan has a new book out this month, “Cooked”. Can’t wait to get my hands on it, I love his stuff.

  7. Jette says:

    Actually… I don’t want to make up/have/follow any rules.
    That being said – I’ve decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 11, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t take drugs. I do a lot of cooking, yes, all from scratch – I just love the act of cooking, for others, for myself. I’ve been working on a farmers’ market for a few years, and I now get a wonderful box of organic veggies delivered to my door once a week. Food is something I enjoy – I really don’t feel the need to come up with any rules to qualify this wonderful relationship in any way!

  8. Rebecca Bailey says:

    @comagirl – Yes! I love that simple form. When I first read the book it struck me as brilliant.

    @Jette, I’d say you clearly do have rules – cooking from scratch, eating organic plant foods, enjoy what you eat…sounds great to me. If calling those “rules” doesn’t feel right, that’s totally fine. I think Pollan’s point was to help people figure things out, and he took those rules from various cultures, great-grandmothers, etc. After his books like In Defense of Food were published, people kept asking him what they SHOULD eat, as opposed to what they shouldn’t. And Food Rules was born (or that’s how I recall the story, anyway).

  9. comagirl says:

    Just heard Michael Pollan discussing his new book (Cooked) on NPR’s Marketplace. I can’t wait to read it. As the title eludes to, it is about the type of “cooking” that Americans do, microwave versus heating up processed food versus cooking from scratch. I imagine it will start where Omnivore’s Dilemma left off. Excellent.

  10. Rebecca Bailey says:

    @comagirl, I’m downloading the new book right now! Should be a good one.

  11. Naomi says:

    This is a great question! Lately I’ve thought of my relationship with food as “restrictions,” though I find “rules” is just as applicable! In my soul I’ve been a strict vegetarian for 17 years (since I was 12), but for the last five I’ve had to completely restructure my diet due to some newly developed chronic health problems that impact what I can and cannot eat. Adapt adapt adapt, right? My rules are now:
    1.Seafood amendment: Stay vegetarian when you can, and use seafood as a good source of protein at least 2x week.
    2.Keep trying new food and old favorites: every few months try a food again that I had a bad reaction to (I keep trying to go back to tofu, but it’s been a no go for now).
    3.Try and eat locally grown food when possible, and support local bakeries.
    4.Cook as much as possible: avoid prepackaged food/ingredients (and the high sodium/preservatives/chemicals within).
    5.Learn to use a variety of seasonings from around the world.
    6.Most importantly, share food I love to eat with others!

  12. Alden says:

    1. No “diet” food. That means nothing processed and marketed as low-fat, low-cal, 100-cal pack, infused with fake sugar or made-up cultures.
    2. Meat is a treat. I reserve it for for special occasions, when I know where it comes from. Preferably and a great restaurant.
    3. Celebrate with dessert. I like to do it like French women do, who associate cake with fun times, instead of guilt. So I totally grab a cupcake for a friend’s birthday–and enjoy it. But I’ve broken myself of the craving for a dessert after lunch or dinner.

  13. comagirl says:

    One of the tidbits shared from the book, during the Pollan interview, was that only 57% of meals are cooked and cooked is a term very loosely defined (as in microwaved, heated, etc.). Cooking from scratch or using whole/real foods narrows that definition significantly.

    That being said, I don’t really buy into the excuse of time restrictions for not eating healthfully. It takes nothing to wash an apple or a carrot. Cooking enough chicken for three meals entails the same amount of time as cooking for one. It is all in the planning, really.

    Pollan also said that the real money is in processed foods; there is virtually no money to be made by taking whole/real foods and bringing them to market, but if we truly want sustainability we need to support our farmers directly . . .

  14. nancy says:

    Being a creature of habits I’ve followed what one can call rules but for me is what feels right..
    Love a breakfast, enjoy my lunch and have a modest dinner – all meals that I’ve cooked and did not come from a box (I really like the saying/ or rule..” if your grandmother wouldnt recognize it as food, do not eat it”)
    And also..I have never had anything other than water (yes, never) not even sparkling water:)

  15. Jette says:

    @Rebecca: you might be right, but as Alden says: it’s important to associate food with fun, not with guilt, and the term “rules” is maybe just a bit too close to the latter for me! (Puts me straight into disobedience mode.) Plus, I’m not really thinking about what I’m doing – it’s more like a pattern I can recognize once I start thinking about it. (Which is probably how Pollan, too, came up with them.)
    However, I’ve just ordered a copy of Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar”, and I’m seriously considering ordering some more books by Pollan – so who knows, my rules might be changing soon! :-)

    @comagirl: I agree – all it takes to eat healthfully and cook (or prepare meals) from scratch is a bit of planning and – even more – practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

  16. Archana says:

    My rules are same as Pollans !

    1. Stick to the outer periphery of the grocery store when shopping.

    2. Dont eat foods ur grandma has never heard of. Exception: quinoa and avocados.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] My 6 Favorite Food Rules via No More Dirty Looks – We particularly love the first two rules from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. […]

Leave A Comment