To Eat or Not To Eat

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Oh, if only it were that easy.

Even Michael Pollan, author of those oft-repeated seven words, felt the need to refine the edict with an entire book of rules.

After he exposed us to the ills of the American diet and the inherent dangers in our uber-capitalistic food industry, Michael Pollan left millions of readers wondering what to eat. He began to compile a list of rules to eat by. A mention of the project on his blog resulted in a flood of reader-submitted suggestions— more than 2,500 of them.

It is no easy feat to navigate the landscape of modern food.

Ultimately, Michael Pollan settled on 64 rules that provide a lot of common sense guidance (#11 Avoid foods you see advertised on television; #36 Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.). It’s up to us to figure out compliance.

We want our food to be nutritionally sound with no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or growth hormone. The sodium should be low and the carbs complex. We want our food growers and manufacturers to trade fairly with their vendors and pay a living wage to their employees. They should conserve energy, limit emissions, and recycle.

And it has to taste good.

The GoodGuide Rating: a single, actionable score.

GoodGuide is a website and iPhone app that measures the health, environmental, and social attributes of products and the companies that make them. GoodGuide analyzes and aggregates ratings based on 600 criteria in areas such as climate change policies, animal testing, nutritional content, work force diversity, philanthropic activity, sustainability of resources, and pesticide usage. The higher the score, the ‘better’ the product.

The website has ratings for more than 65,000 products and companies, and you’ll find plenty of surprises, like the unexpected high score (7.1) for a Pringles canned chip chip variety, versus a score of for 3.6 for the healthy-sounding Snyder’s Of Hanover 100 Calorie MultiGrain Sunflower Chips. The phone app lets you scan bar codes from the supermarket shelves.

So go ahead:

Eat your colors (#25); treat treats as treats (#60); and best of all, break the rules once in a while (#64).


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