It isn’t easy to know what the best decision is when you are about to put food into your cart at the supermarket. Farmed organic or wild caught fish? Soy milk or whole milk? Local and conventional or organic from Chile? Whole wheat or extra-fiber flax bread? Fortified cereal with 100% of your vitaminD requirements or gluten free oats? ‘Organic’, ‘natural’, or ‘farm fresh’? Bottled water or tap water?
Don’t worry, Marion Nestle is here to help.
Her book WHAT TO EAT is a uniquely sane look into the food industry.
Surprisingly, Nestle doesn’t actually tell you what to eat. On the contrary, there is no discussion as to which diet is better than another, no finger-pointing, no guilting readers about whatever it is they put on the dinner table.
How refreshing! With the credibility that comes with her extensive research as a professor of Nutrition and Politics at NYU, she successfully describes the food scene from a political perspective, taking us through the supermarket aisles, leaving us at the end of each chapter with this message:
if you are going to eat _____, then the best choice is _____.
Let me give you some examples. If you are going to eat meat, try and find organic grass-fed meat. If you are going to eat soy products, go for the premium non-GMO ones. If you are going to drink milk, the calories and saturated fat are reason enough to choose lower-fat options. And if you plan on eating junk food (and let’s be honest, we never plan to, it just happens), make it occasional and indulge, don’t go for reduced carb Oreos.
Makes sense, right?
Nestle delves into politics, laws, patents, shares the tricks that food companies use to make you believe their food is healthy. She compares farming methods, subsidies, irradiation, etc. and talks about the legislation behind labels and food claims – what ‘organic’, ‘farm fresh’, or ‘natural’ really mean. She helps you to decode ingredients lists.
It feels like you are finally given the keys to making informed grocery shopping decisions.
Some of her wonderful insights
- This should be your order of preference when you buy produce: Organic + local, organic, local + conventional, conventional.
- Choose wild fish over farmed fish (farmed fish are fed inappropriate diets, given colouring, raise many environmental issues, and are full of PCBs).
- Look for bread made with actual whole wheat, not white bread coloured to look like whole wheat.
- Make your own baby food.
- Don’t be fooled by the higher price of brown eggs VS white eggs. The nutritional contents are exactly the same, the colour just depends on the kind of chicken which lays them.
- Organic meat does not mean grass fed. It means fed organic feed (which could be soybeans, corn, etc…)
- The more a food is processed, filled with artificial colours, preservatives, and sugar, the more profitable it becomes to food companies.
- Margarine, i.e. hydrogenated oils are full of trans fats and extremely unhealthy. Better to favour good quality butter.
- Look for products higher up in the shelves. The products at eye level are those from huge corporations who can afford the expensive slotting fees.
The bottom line is, she wants you to be informed, to not believe spurious health claims, and to help shift the industry into the right direction by voting with your food dollars every time you make a purchase.
Get it here.