Cut the Nutri-Hype. Eat Real Food

Ethical Cows

Pollan says beef is fine food, if raised ethically and eaten in moderation. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images

Have that burger, says author Michael Pollan, and honor the importance of pleasure in food. The author slices through the nutri-hype with his latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. "See if you can find a grass-fed burger," he advises. "It tastes better, and it's better for you, and it's better for the animal."

Pollan argues that our culture has an unhealthy obsession with eating right. "I'm trying to get people to relax about it a little," he says.

There are many reasons to make choices about what you eat beyond attempting to live longer, he argues. Among them is taking part in family and cultural rituals. The more rigid you become about your diet, the harder it is to eat what everyone around you is having. So eat unprocessed food, with an emphasis on plants, and don't eat too much. Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Stay on the perimeter of a supermarket, where the meat, fish, produce and dairy products reside. The packaged goods — from sodas to sugary cereals — lurk in the middle.

Since he became a marquee name in the "slow food" movement with his 2006 book Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan says he has noticed that he gets fewer invitations for supper — perhaps because people worry about what to serve him. But Pollan believes in eating what he's served. And he admits to having a couple of guilty pleasures, chief among them Cracker Jack and corn chips.

On our blog, an open thread: What's your "guilty pleasure" junk food?

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