Food Rules – a Shortcut to Better Health

I used to assume that everyone over the age of twelve had figured out how to eat a healthy diet. Below that age, a kid can be forgiven, because fussy eating can be built right into your genes.

One year in elementary school I insisted that my lunch be only a bacon sandwich on a fresh onion bun, a container of jell-o brand pistachio pudding, a thermos full of chocolate milk, and an apple. And it was the only lunch I ate, day after day, for the entire school year.

Nowadays, my own son is unfortunately displaying the effects of his Dad’s picky genes. Despite starting him out on a broad diet including Mexican, Indian and Thai food, he has now narrowed his menu to include only cheese, apples, milk, French toast, Dad’s homemade bacon pizza, and a few types of fruits and berries.

Eventually I branched back out to become an omnivore who loves extreme variety, so I still have hope for him. But not everyone has such a bright future. I learned this when cleaning out the garage of one of my rental houses a few years back.

The tenant, a 21-year-old MBA student*, had moved out in a rush and left me with a line of ten (10!) oversized trash bags in the garage, plus a house full of junk as well. When moving the bags, I noticed clinking and rustling sounds which indicated recyclable materials mixed in with the trash.

If you’ve ever read the Trash Article, you know that Mr. Money Mustache gets a little uneasy when confronted with the idea of sending unnecessary things to the landfill. It’s one of my irrational weaknesses. So I put on some work gloves, and began to rip open the bags, and sort. And learn. And Holy Shit, you wouldn’t believe what this 21-year-old had been eating and drinking!

There were pizza boxes, almost universally still filled with 25-50% of a dried-up pizza. When stacked, these pizza boxes towered taller than my head.  Little sucka must have ordered a pizza for himself virtually every night of the week! And yet he didn’t even have the foresight to save his leftovers in the 26 cubic foot stainless steel side-by-side fridge I had provided for him!

There were OVER A HUNDRED enormous 26-ounce paper cups from fast food “restaurants”, some still partially filled with Coke and other toxic sugar drinks. But that wasn’t all he drank – empty plastic pop bottles and empty cases of cheap canned beer were also in abundance.

Scraps of fast food along with their tragic disposable foam and paper containers filled some of the bags. Burgers, fries, chicken wings, and catfood-like taco bell “ground beef” remnants.

In the fridge were processed sandwich meats, processed cheese slices in plastic wrappers, half-finished TV dinners, and white bread.

By the time I sorted it all out, crushed it, recycled it, composted things that would rot and heaved the rest into a small dumpster, I was feeling pretty damned good about my own eating habits. I’m no angelic eater. I pig out occasionally, I’ve been known to consume all sorts of alcohol and various other drugs over the years, and I don’t count food miles or insist on an all-organic diet. But compared to this guy, my diet looked like a buffet beamed down directly from the Food Gods.

I was also set to wondering about this country’s populace as a whole. Do people really eat like this? Could this be the source of most of our early-onset physical and health problems? Was my renter’s diet the reason he was frail and pudgy and frequently under the weather, despite being almost fifteen years younger than I was?

Maybe healthy eating isn’t self-evident as I thought. Luckily, there’s a pretty neat book I recently read on the subject. It’s one of the shortest books you’ll ever read, with just a few dozen pages and a few words on each page. It is called “Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual“, by Michael Pollan.

I figured this idea was worth sharing, because the book’s recomendations align almost perfectly with some changes I’ve made to my own eating habits in just the past year or two. The results have been nothing short of dramatic to me. I’ve been trying to work out regularly and eat well for about 21 years now. But by switching to a less processed diet with more plants and delicious high-fat oily stuff, and just slightly away from things like bread and sugar, I very quickly lost about 15 pounds of fat without losing strength, leaving me with a leanness I had long ago written off as something that just wasn’t in my genes. So, thanks Vegetables!

And here are my top ten quotes from the book, so you can get an idea if you are already a wise eater, or if you need a crash course on The Rules yourself.
1: Eat food 
“These days this is easier said than done, especially when seventeen thousand new products show up in the supermarket each year, all vying for your food dollar. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food—I call them edible foodlike substances. They’re highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.”

2: Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.

3: Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

4: Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

5: Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.

6: Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

7: Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.

8: Eat your colors.
“The idea that a healthy plate of food will feature several different colors is a good example of an old wives’ tale about food that turns out to be good science too. The colors of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain—anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible.”

9: Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature.
“In nature, sugars almost always come packaged with fiber, which slows their absorption and gives you a sense of satiety before you’ve ingested too many calories. That’s why you’re always better off eating the fruit rather than drinking its juice.”

10: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.”
Better yet, if you have any need to lose weight, avoid bread entirely. I think of bread products these days as “weight gain squares” – I do eat them, but only when my weight is getting below my target zone.

11: Stop eating before you’re full

12: Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods. (fruits, vegetables, nuts)

13: Cook your Own Food – as often as possible.

OK, that was the top thirteen, since I couldn’t think of any more to chop to get it down to ten. It’s a good book, and you should read it if you have anything in common with my old rental house tenant.

* don’t worry, he doesn’t read this blog or even know it exists

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171 Responses to “Food Rules – a Shortcut to Better Health”

  1. Normal Food For Normal People May 11, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    A poster should be made of these rules and taught in every school classroom, nationwide. And you’re absolutely correct to portray soft drinks (even diet soft drinks) as toxic, that stuff is killing people slowly. And yet, with all of that said, I bet Coca Cola’s profits will continue to increase.

    • Chris May 14, 2012 at 7:46 am #

      I beg to differ. Diet sodas and artificial sweeteners are fine. They did one study on rats in the 80s or 90s that resulted in a spike in insulin and other scary things, but when they tried the same thing with humans, the results were much more mundane.

      You should look these things up for yourself. Check out PubMed ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ ).

      • Michael May 15, 2012 at 8:52 am #

        Not literally toxic, but certainly unhealthy

        Even though artificial sweeteners are safe, there’s a lot of reasons you shouldn’t drink even sugar-free soda.

        They contain a lot of salt and caffeine (a diuretic) because they quite intentionally want to make you thirsty so you buy more, while telling you it’s a thirst quencher.

        This also makes it an appetite increaser, so you’re going to eat more food when you drink a can of coke than you would if you’d had water. (This has actually been shown to be the case in direct experiments, not just theory)

        • Frans May 22, 2012 at 7:06 am #

          The “appetite increaser” effect goes for regular sugar as well.

          If I remember correctly sweeteners won’t give you an insulin boost, and as such will do nothing to still your craving for something sweet, leaving you willing to drink even more of it.

          Even if it didn’t taste like crap I wouldn’t drink it.

    • Heidi May 29, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      A poster! Great idea!

  2. jimbo May 11, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I try to reduce my sugar/bread/cereal intake but I find it sooo hard in the morning.

    What is a high protein, fast to prepare, and easy to eat on the go breakfast? I can only eat so many eggs in a week…

    • Normal Food For Normal People May 11, 2012 at 6:31 am #

      A smoothie might be something you toss in to the rotation – also some wheat germ and yogurt could keep you going (super healthy). The morning is a great time to get a serving of fruit in.

    • Dave May 11, 2012 at 6:34 am #

      When I was running a lot I couldn’t eat enough calories. Refined foods, like bread, only lasted me about an hour before I was hungry again. And, like you, I could only eat so many eggs and egg whites.

      So, I started experimenting with “base” foods plus additions. Oatmeal, for instance, you can eat with fruit and nuts, peanut butter, or even oil mixed in to give it additional calories and staying power. Getting protein, specifically, is a tough one, so I tended to save my high protein meals for later in day. I can’t face grilled salmon at 7AM. MMM is a big fan of protein powder, so you could try mixing that in to your base gruel of oatmeal, steel cut oats, or other high fiber cereal. I don’t care for it myself because it’s fairly highly processed and contains a lot of selenium, but others swear by it.

      Hope this helps. Great post MMM!

      • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 7:36 am #

        Ground flax seed in the oatmeal is good too.

        • GregK May 11, 2012 at 8:24 am #

          Yes, and ground it must be! You just pass through whole flax seeds — no nutritional benefit; just added cost. And no, your teeth don’t do a good job of grinding the tiny seeds.

          • Geek May 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

            I’ve swung from near-vegetarian to Keto w/meat (no pork) and I highly recommend turkey bacon with egg salad for just about any meal :)

        • T-Lou May 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

          Try mixing about 1/3 quinoa in with steel cut oats. I do this for my vegetarian daughter who shuns all proteins other than beans. If I increase more than 1/3 she complains – though I understand many people have switched to straight quinoa.

      • Keith May 19, 2012 at 9:19 am #

        lots of good plant materials have protein. not just meat. beans, nuts, and some alternative grains are rather high to name a few

    • Joe @ Retire By 40 May 11, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      Cook a batch of steel cut oatmeal once a week and put it in the fridge. In the morning, you can add fruits, Greek yogurt, etc… and you’re good to go.
      This is very good for your heart and cholesterol.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 11, 2012 at 7:11 am #

      Take plain yogurt (flavoured yogurt tends to have fake stuff and refine sugar in it), add 1/8 tsp of vanilla extract, then some granola. You can work out the calories on that yourself, based on your serving size, but it’s a good way to get protein if yogurt isn’t too expensive where you are. Add fresh fruit if you’re into that.
      Oatmeal is good too. Boil some water, throw the oatmeal in a bowl with some dried fruit. Ta-da.
      After that, yeah, eggs with cheese melted on them.

      • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 10:24 am #

        I find that the local Middle Eastern market has delicious, inexpensive plain yogurt. I usually get the 4 lb. container of Lebanese style. (I think it’s made locally here in SoCal). It’s the full fat version, none of this fat free stuff. My 4 year old twins like this yogurt with a bit of honey drizzled over it.

        • Gerard June 28, 2012 at 7:07 am #

          Yeah, real yogurt and honey are amazing together. To change it up, you can plump up some raisins in water overnight and add them (without the water). It’s a big Greek thing.

    • Fiveoh May 11, 2012 at 7:31 am #

      Cottage Cheese is also another fairly healthy protein option for breakfast. You can mix it with fresh fruit or nuts to jazz it up.

    • Vanessa May 11, 2012 at 7:54 am #

      Steel cut oatmeal! Its a superfood. I simmer it in a bit of water, then add some milk (almond, soy or cow) and frozen blueberries (another superfood). Top with chopped walnuts or almonds and 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds (yet another superfood). The entire concoction is delicious, healthy and packed with fiber which keeps you amazingly regular (if you know what I mean). I’ve been eating it every day for past 7 years and haven’t been bored yet.

      • Melissa May 12, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

        Flax seeds in steel cut oatmeal are great too! Just be sure to grind them up, otherwise they will pass through your system, undigested. You get a great dose of healthy fats and plenty of fiber, plus a nice nutty taste as well

    • Gypsy Queen May 11, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      Home-made bawl of Muesli?
      Yogurt gives you proteins, granola gives you carbohydrates and fibers, fresh fruits give you vitamins…
      Just make sure the yogurt is not sweetened. And maybe make your own granola?

      Or, if you want a salty version: Greek salad: many many vegetables, and Greek cheese for proteins. Play with the ratio until you are satisfied.

    • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      As a low carber: there is really no reason to focus on “high protein”. Most of us eat more protein than our bodies need. Fat and low glycemic index carbs (i.e. carbs that are unrefined and not sugar) are filling.

      I eat a lot of eggs, but cheese is a great option. A cup of cottage cheese, a simple slice of cheese, or mixing cheese in with your scrambled eggs to make them more filling. Also, bacon (seriously!)…throw it in the oven before you take a shower!

      Remember, dietary cholesterol is mostly irrelevant to blood cholesterol, so don’t stress about eating too many eggs. The “dangers” of eating lots of egg yolks is a myth based on a common fundamental misunderstanding about how blood cholesterol works.

      • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 10:30 am #

        That news about cholesterol and saturated fat from eggs (and cheese and butter, and coconut oil, etc.) is the best thing that has come out in my adult life.

        I used to avoid those things, but now I eat them without worry. And boy are they delicious. And lo and behold, my blood test numbers are still fantastic. The doctor says I must be doing something right, but I try to downplay the fact that I love good old-fashioned high-fat food :-)

        • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 11:38 am #

          Same here! My doctor gave me a funny look, looked at my cholesterol numbers, and said “Well, it’s working for you, keep it up”.

          I eat eggs almost every day, cook exclusively with butter/olive oil/coconut oil, and eat plenty of avocado, cheeses, and meats with my greens. (Colorful meals!)

          Cheese is one of my biggest frugality battles, because I love a good rich cheese, but the Mustachian voice in me tells me to buy big blocks of cheap cheese.

          • Shay W May 11, 2012 at 11:55 am #

            Costco has big blocks of reasonably priced GOOD cheese.

            • Dancedancekj May 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

              I fully second the Costco suggestion. For example, the Tillamook cheddar block isn’t too bad (and that’s kind of on the low end of the cheese selection), and I pay around 50-60% of what I would pay at the regular grocery store for the same amount.

              • AGil May 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

                I think most Mustacians fight this battle. I usually cheap out on the wine and go for the big chunks of quality cheese at discount stores as well. Sometimes I overspend on locally made cheese :(

        • Alex May 11, 2012 at 11:51 am #

          If you’re interested in the science behind why saturated fat doesn’t affect your blood test numbers (but lots of carbs will), and you haven’t already, I suggest you read Gary Taubes’s “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It”. Absolutely fantastic book!

          http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-Vintage/dp/0307474259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336758687&sr=8-1

          • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

            I’ve read this book, ditto the recommendation!

            • Geek May 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

              +1 !

      • Matt May 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

        I too believe this relatively new idea, that serum (blood) cholesterol levels are not influenced by dietary fat and cholesterol. Gary Taubes has too books about this (“Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why We Get Fat”. See also the “summary” of these books in the NY Times article, “What if it’s all Been a Big Fat Lie?”).

        I tried selling my parents on this, but they have a near-religious fervor for The Dr Oz show. Is anyone familiar with this? Dr Oz is always talking about fat and cholesterol, and, from what my mom says, still advocating a low-fat diet. Whenever I visit my parents, I have to drink skim milk!

        For those of us who love bacon, the Gary Taubes view, aka, fat-is-good-for-you, naturally removes the guilt of enjoying this wonderfully delicious food.

        That is, until my mom literally pleaded with me to not eat so much bacon. Apparently, Dr Oz had someone on his show who’s recently done some research correlating an increased risk of pancreatic cancer (one of the worst kinds of cancer you can get) to ingesting nitrates. Nitrates are generally used as preservatives in processed meats, such as sausage and bacon. The Dr Oz guest said as little as two sausage links a day can increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by 60% (IIRC).

        The rebuttal I’ve heard to this is that most vegetables are naturally high in nitrates (e.g., “nitrogen rich” soil is good soil).

        But then you read that “natural” nitrates, such as those found in vegetables, are actually a different beast than those that are used as preservatives in processed meats. This is where my eyes start to gloss over a bit with the details (I’ve already played loose with the terminology, i.e. nitrates vs nitrites).

        It feels like you really have to be a dietary expert to sort through all the (mis)information that’s out there. Or maybe not, as so much of it is contradictory. Someone cites a study that proves XYZ, and someone else comes along and cites a study that proves not-XYZ, and a third person says both studies were flawed… you can find a lot of people persuasively arguing for just about any kind of diet you can imagine. Who has time to read the actual details of the studies? (I believe Gary Taubes spent five years reviewing the research before writing his book.) And is the average person without formal science training even capable of discerning bad science from good science?

        • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

          Trader Joes has wonderful uncured, nitrate, nitrite free bacon. You can have it all :)

        • ghyspran May 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

          That’s when you give up and buy a pig.

    • sideways8 May 11, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      I’m lazy so sometimes I eat leftover dinner for breakfast.

      • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

        I do that almost every day. Saves time, money and gets you away from vacuous breakfast carbs. Add a few greens or maybe some berries or even some nuts.

      • carolinakaren May 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

        I definitely prefer dinner food for breakfast too! It seems to keep me feeling full longer also.

        • AGil May 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

          I will eat anything for breakfast as well. It amazes me that people waste so much food, and then complain about being flat broke!

      • Heidi May 29, 2012 at 11:24 am #

        My favorite breakfast is leftover curry.

    • kaeldra May 11, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      Make a smoothie using silken tofu instead of yogurt as the base. Use soymilk instead of cow milk as the liquid, and you’ve got a lot of protein going on.

      • JZ May 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

        Maybe, but I don’t like to overdo soy. There are some people who have had some major health complications that could be traced back to having too high of a proportion of their diet replaced by soy products. tofu is fine, soymilk is fine, but when your main ingredients – plural – are all soy, it’s time to start looking for some different recipes.

    • jimbo May 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

      Thanks guys! Good tips… I will try most of them. :-)

    • budget veggie August 12, 2013 at 5:16 am #

      Try whole wheat toast spread with peanut butter, honey, and wheat germ. It’s quite filling, pleasantly crunchy, and sweet enough to eliminate Nutella or Captain Crunch temptations (which I’ve been battling for years). I like mine with a big ol’ glass of skim milk…

  3. Dwight May 11, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    I tell my patients, “It I were going to do one thing to improve my health, I would stop drinking soda.” Inevitably, the patient’s mouth drops open and he asks how I knew that he drinks soda. I still haven’t figured out how to tactfully answer this question. How do you tell some that it’s obvious? “You’re a sick, fat, ugly diabetic with 14 cavities?” All these problems could be prevented if we stop drinking sugar water.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 7:04 am #

      Yeah, that soda stuff is pretty scary if you really think about it. 39 grams of sugar in a single can.. and as by comparison, I will usually throw down a package of food in disgust if I see even 6 grams of (refined) sugar per serving!

      Of course, my beloved homebrewed dark beers are high in unhealthy alcohol carbs as well, so I can claim holiness. But at least I’m not drinking those every day at lunch time.

      • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 10:21 am #

        Just a slight clarification: Alcohol itself actually doesn’t have any carbs, nor do distilled liquors (vodka, rum, gin, etc). People on low carb diets can drink away on their whiskey and scotch without the insulin response the body has to blood sugars.

        Link:
        http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/healthissues/1110385823.html

        Beer, however, is loaded with carbs because it is usually brewed with grains and sometimes added sugars.

        Wine varies all over the place; some of the dryer wines are fairly low in carbs, the sweeter ones loaded because they’re basically sugary fruit juice.

        That isn’t to say you can drink hard liquor without end and it won’t affect your weight- there’s still a ton of calories in it- but considering how insulin tends to control fat storage/retention/metabolism and is triggered by carbs, hard liquor and dry wines are the lesser of evils. Not to mention the reported health benefits of red wines.

        • goat May 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

          Pro Tip: I used to be able to slam away the booze before I went low-carb. Now I can only drink 2-3 drinks and I have to monitor how I’m feeling or I can get sick. If you’re going low-carb for the first time, make sure you are prepared for changes in your alcohol tolerance.

          • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

            Sounds like a great benefit – reduced beer costs!!

            • Entity325 May 11, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

              I challenge you to reduce my alcohol bill!

              I never did get the point of alcohol.

          • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

            Yeah, I went through this too. Been low carb since January. Man, I used to be able to drink anything. Now I feel tipsy on 1/4 of what I used to be able to.

            Actually does make for a cheaper bill.

            • Geek May 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

              I get a hangover from 4-6 oz of wine, so I’m down to a sip of the hubby’s drinks. Are you on /r/keto?

              • Praxis May 12, 2012 at 9:27 am #

                Indeed I am! Bacon on, my friend.

    • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      The 80 minute video by Dr. Lustig at UCSF with the most updated medical research about what this stuff does inside your body would give you some more things to tell them. It’s a must see. Search “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” and Lustig on Youtube.

    • sideways8 May 11, 2012 at 8:18 am #

      I HAAAAAATE SODA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I used to drink that sh*t like water. Gross. Horrible. There is no reason at all to consume it. None. I quit that stuff in high school. Too bad I didn’t quit ice cream and (milk) chocolate along with it… but that’s a work in progress.

      • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 10:27 am #

        Me too. I try hard to get my family members off of soda, but no luck. At least none of them are daily drinkers.

    • sideways8 May 11, 2012 at 10:49 am #

      Perhaps they should post the side effects of soda on the can like they do with medications or warnings like on cigarettes.

      WARNING: Consuming sweetened carbonated beverages increase your risk of diabetes, obesity, tooth loss, periodontal disease, gingivitis, acid reflux, osteoperosis, early death, and increasing difficulty getting laid. Oh, and that boat load of suger is PERFECT food for cancerous tumors!

    • carolinakaren May 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      A great video about the effect of sugar on the human body is “Sugar the Bitter Truth” on You Tube. It is presented by a pediatric endocrinologist from UCSF….. I highly recommend it, although it is very in depth and might be a little hard to follow for folks without a medical background.

  4. T-Luv May 11, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I think college students are more likely to eat unhealthy than the rest of the population. Who hasn’t had the craving for a large helping of fast food at 2am after a hard night of drinking. Hopefully once your former tenant settles into a more balanced lifestyle he will realize the benefits of fresh produce.

    For those of you who are “too busy” to prepare fresh meals on weekdays, I say BS. If you fall into this trap, I suggest that you cut up all your fresh vegetables for the week on Sunday so it is ready to go when get home from work. Throw the veggies in a wok with some teriyaki and Boom you have a healthy and fresh stir fry with minimal time and work. My wife and I also make individual salads in tupperware to bring for lunch each day. As long as the lettuce/baby spinach is dry the salad stays fresh all week. Healthy option with a very reasonable cost.

  5. Brad May 11, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    My food rules are a little simpler:

    1. drink soda sparingly
    2. avoid fast food as much as possible
    3. cook as many meals as possible
    4. limit alcoholic beverages (beer) to a couple a week
    5. eat inexpensive, filling foods frequently (eggs, oatmeal, rice, beans)

    • GregK May 11, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      NEVER drink soda. It’s literally poison, and serves NO purpose other than to addict you to it and kill you, while rotting your teeth, and on the whole making you less attractive (see the doc’s comment above). Why the hell would you ever consume that crap???

      • sideways8 May 11, 2012 at 10:53 am #

        Gosh… an addictive substance that poisons your body and rots your teeth? It’s like meth in a can. That is sold to children.

      • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 11:45 am #

        I never drink traditional (corn-syrup or sugar sweetened) soda, and drink diet soda sparingly.

        Artificial sweeteners make me uncomfortable, but no actual clinical study or trial has managed to find any unhealthy side effect besides people who seem to have a sensitivity/allergy. As opposed to sugar, which has tons of negative effects. So if I’m going to choose one to mix my rum in… ;)

        • Maus May 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

          Actually, there has been some research that the sweet taste of artifically-sweetened sodas begins producing an insulin effect the minute the tongue detects sweet but before the gut realizes there’s no glucose to metabolize. The higher insulin response results in stored fat, which in turn provoke the need for a higher insulin response when carbs are ingested. This nasty feedback loop is considered one of the many reasons why obese people who never drink anything but artificially-sweetened sodas seem to struggle with the inability to lose weight.

          Check out Whole Health Source for a great exploration of the mechanisms of obesity, a scientific study of the paleo-type diets, etc. The blogger is a very credible scientist.
          http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/

          • Emmers May 14, 2012 at 8:07 am #

            IANAendocrinologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s *not* how the pancreas works. Insulin release isn’t related to the tastebuds.

            Unless you have a PubMed link to back that up, maybe? Would be interested to read it.

        • carolinakaren May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

          Yes, it is very unhealthy. Watch “Sugar the Bitter Truth.” It’s presented by a pediatric endocrinologist from UCSF and is available on You Tube. This guy outlines specifically how artificial sweeteners act in the body, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, etc. I have occasionally been seen mixing some of the above with vodka though….

          • Chris May 14, 2012 at 8:14 am #

            Sucrose (table sugar) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. High-fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. Despite the scare mongering, HFCS is no worse than table sugar.

            • Praxis May 14, 2012 at 9:27 am #

              The argument isn’t that HFCS is worse than table sugar, it’s that it is just as bad- and that table sugar is much worse for us than previously thought.

            • JZ May 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

              The issue isn’t that HFCS is worse than sugar, it’s that it’s cheaper, and so companies can use more of it.. and do.

  6. Shawn May 11, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    marksdailyapple.com is a great resource for healthy eating and well being.

    • Shay W May 11, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Agreed! Mark’s Daily Apple is a great complement to Mr. Money Mustache’s blog and I suspect there are a lot of shared readers.

    • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      I love MDA.

      • Albert May 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

        +1

        Best health site online. Period.

        I’ve lost over 90 lbs on the Primal Blueprint WOE.

    • nathanbw May 13, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Agreed! Mark’s Daily Apple is indeed in my list of great blogs, right up there with MMM. That’s why the only rule I can’t wholeheartedly agree with above is number 7 (eat meat sparingly.) I think we evolved as hunters, and are designed to eat delicious animals on a regular basis! It is a bit more expensive, but I think worth the benefits of delicious meals and increased vitality!

      Long time reader, first time (I think) poster. MMM is one of my favorite blogs. Keep up the good work! It’s always a pleasure to read a new MMM post.

  7. Joe @ Retire By 40 May 11, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    We could improve our eating habit too. I don’t drink soda and usually cook at home, but I do have some bad habits that I’m trying to get rid of.
    I’m thinking about avoiding anything that come out of a bag for a month, but maybe that’s too difficult. Maybe that will be my challenge for June.
    bag food – chips, lunch meat, frozen salmon, bag spinach, cereals, etc…

  8. Jimmy May 11, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    Two things help me:
    - “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
    - The No-S Diet: http://nosdiet.com/

    Make that three things:
    - My wife is an amazing cook who cares about the above two things.

    • John May 11, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”

      That’s a 200 proof nutritional cocktail right there. Not that a 200 proof cocktail would fall into that diet…

      • Poor Student May 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

        This was the one thing I took away from an entire nutrition class. This just makes so much sense that I do not understand why nobody came up with it before Michael Pollan in 2007.

        Use that quotation as your dietary premise and you will be as healthy as the day is long.

    • sideways8 May 11, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      The No S diet looks quite interesting! Thanks for sharing!! I love the simplicity… and I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I do indeed eat too much. The increasing tightness of my pants does not lie!

  9. Mr. Frugal Toque May 11, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    I can vouch for that bread thing.
    Four months ago I thought I was a reasonably muscle-bound, fit guy. I did a lot of abs/core exercises, running, weights, the whole lot. But I was 164 pounds and thinking that it was because of all that muscle.
    I was deluding myself.
    I stopped eating four slices of bread every day. A few days ago I just bounced off 149 pounds with no obvious loss of strength.
    And, yes, this includes eliminating cookies, cupcakes and other sources of sugar even more refined than whole wheat bread. Now, if I eat bread at all, it’s one slice a day maximum and it’s 100% whole *grain*, not whole wheat.

    Also: there are ads on television? I’d entirely forgotten.

    • Clint May 11, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      why whole grain vs. whole wheat?

      • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 11:54 am #

        See my other reply to Mr. Frugal Toque, but white bread spikes your blood sugar just as much as actual sugar. It’s refined so much it just goes straight to the blood stream. The body reacts by trying to make it store it as fat as fast as possible to get the blood sugar down, and then you don’t stay full as long as you should.

        • Ann May 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

          Sprouted grain bread (Ezekiel is one brand) does not impact blood sugar like regular bread as it does not contain flour. This is the only kind of bread I eat.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque May 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

        There was actually a Health Canada bruhaha over this, as there was a pretty strong feeling that naming something “whole wheat bread” was misleading people into thinking that the product was as good as whole grain – and Health Canada was adamant that these things were not equal.
        When you refine the grain, and remove various parts of it, you make it so it digests too quickly, leaving your stomach empty and demanding more. Whole grain is more likely to fill you up than whole wheat, which is better than white bread.

        • Cass May 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

          In the USA, if something is listed as “whole grain” it does not need to be 100% whole grains; it can merely include grains.
          So if you’re in the USA, make sure it is listed as “100%” or read the label to see if all the grains in the product are “whole”.
          A good way around this confusion – bake your own bread. It’s tasty, easy, and can be exactly what you want from bread, if you find the right recipe.

    • Praxis May 11, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      I learned this when I started learning about how weight works.

      To simplify:
      Insulin drives the body to store, and insulin is produced as a response to blood sugar rising. Any carbohydrate breaks down in to blood sugar. However, depending on the type of carb and what kind of food it comes in, it can break down fast or slow- this is the glycemic index.

      The faster it hits your bloodstream, the more of a spike in blood sugar, and the more insulin your body responds with. Genetic factors and overall exposure to high blood sugars over the lifetime can also change how much insulin your body reacts with (this is why some people seem to have crazy high metabolisms and other people gain weight really easily).

      Refined white bread has the same glycemic index (measurement of how much it spikes your blood sugar) as refined sugar itself. It’s basically the same thing as sugar, from a weight perspective! White bread = sugar.

      Whole wheat bread is a big improvement, but avoiding bread is even better. I killed grains and sugar from my diet to lose weight and it’s been dramatic.

      (I feel like I hacked myself! :3 )
      For a nonscientific example, think about how bears eat berries to gain weight to hibernate in winter and meat during the summer, or how grain-fed cows are fatter than grass-fed.

  10. Emmers May 11, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    “But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food—I call them edible foodlike substances.”

    This is something I find both hilarious and frustrating about dairy substitutes — they’re often labeled with something along the lines of “A yogurt-like, nondairy food.” I really think “Soy Yogurt” would be a *way better* way of marketing that. Just stick on the little vegan ideogram so people know it isn’t made of animal products, and voila, you’re good to go.

    Unrelated to that, I really appreciated how this post mostly focused on health instead of weight. Yes, sometimes you do lose weight as a result of eating more healthily, but the *health* itself is the goal here, and what should be focused on. Bravo!

  11. Teresa May 11, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I loved this book. I liked the rule regarding making sweets if you want to eat them. For instance, if you want cookies bake them yourself instead of buying them in the store. You will end up with a little less processed treat that you had to move your body to make.

    One very interesting point I never entirely grasped until I started following Pollan is the idea that we have very little variety to choose from in the supermarket. There are literally hundreds of thousands of items, but they are mainly composed of corn and soy (genetically modified none-the-less). So while we think we are eating a varied diet we are mostly consuming two heavily subsidized products.

    Foraging is an interesting idea. I have been spying an abundance of dandelion greens (vitamin packed leaves growing wildly and for the taking for free). My grandmother frequently made dandelion green salads when I was a child. I was just telling my six-year old daughter yesterday about making dandelion salad and at first she was disgusted and then in six-year old fashion she decided in very short order that it was indeed a good idea. This will be on our things to try list very shortly.

    • Gerard May 11, 2012 at 7:34 am #

      I have great dandelion greens in my backyard. But they’re pretty bitter, especially for a six-year-old. They’re good if you drench them in a hot bacon/vinegar dressing (fry diced bacon, add garlic, add vinegar to hot pan, add dandelion greens for a few seconds, dump whole mess onto a plate), but that works by covering one strong taste with another.

      Do you think your daughter might enjoy dandelion root “coffee”? Dig up the roots, scrub them well, toast them in the microwave or oven till completely dry, whiz in the spice/coffee grinder or blender, and use the powder to make milky sweet (caffeine-free) “coffee”. Kinda tasty, actually.

      • Teresa May 11, 2012 at 7:54 am #

        Wow – thank you Gerard! Great tips – never heard of dandelion coffee before. I am very intrigued.

        I was also considering throwing dandelion leaves in a green smoothie as the fruit would balance the bitter out.

        We have an unusual six-year old. She loves to eat raw kale out of the fridge. Her favorite snacks are fruits and vegetables. It has never been a problem to get her to eat things that are good for her. Not to say she doesn’t dabble in the junk food either…

        • Leslie May 11, 2012 at 8:05 am #

          If she likes kale, she’ll probably like dandelion greens. Also, they’re substantially less bitter if you harvest them before the flowers begin to show.

          Does anyone have recommendations about urban foraging? I find it too scary most of the time… I grow my own dandelions in pots (actually, they grow themselves! easiest plant ever!) because I don’t trust the ones in people’s yards or sidewalk cracks to be clean and chemical-free. A neighbor has a mulberry tree that’s dropping ripe berries right now, but I don’t know if he sprays it with anything. Maybe I should stop worrying so much… my old neighborhood was full of fig trees, and I ate tons of those figs. People didn’t even try to harvest them!

          • Teresa May 11, 2012 at 9:16 am #

            Very interesting Leslie. I was not aware they became more bitter after the flowers had set.

            May make foraging a little more challenging as the happy, bright yellow flowers are always so easy to spot.

            • lindsey May 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

              YOu can also forage and eat chickweed, nettles and lambs’ quarters, as well as fireweed.

              • Teresa May 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

                Thanks Lindsay. I am still kicking myself today. We had a bunch of stinging nettles growing on our land when we moved in six years ago. Someone told me it was a weed (before I became interested in this kind of stuff) so I pulled it all out. Have not seen it since.

                Here is a pretty neat movie you may have seen for nettles lasagna:

                http://youtu.be/mhP6Dv0J5i0

                Cheers!

              • T-Lou May 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

                I’ve made soup from “pigweed”last year. My mother fed us pigweed growing and prepared it like spinach. I’ve heard it called “poor man’s spinach”. If you look on the internet there are warnings because it is very high in nitrites/nitrates. I made the soup which did taste “healthy” – enough so that it was lunch with my health conscious friend – not for family or kid consumption. Regrettably, I did too good of a job in weeding the patch after making the soup so my supply is gone.

          • Cass May 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

            I urban-forage for cat nip for my cats. It grows like a weed around here!
            I’ve also picked wild grapes, black berries, edible leaves, asparagus, and edible flowers from local nature hikes. Most of these plants get mowed every summer to keep the trails clear. I just make sure to wash everything with vinegar + water before I eat it, in case the caretakers sprayed any pesticides.

      • Heidi May 29, 2012 at 11:34 am #

        I love coffee so much. Dandelion coffee does not taste like coffee, and, yet it does. Its a really enjoyable drink.

    • Dancedancekj May 11, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Are you a fan of kimchi? I made dandelion green kimchi last year and it was tremendously tasty. It had the bright clear notes of kimchi’s regular tangy, spicy flavors, but underneath it also came the tones of the dandelion greens – earthy and savory and so much flaaavor.
      Dandelion greens are supposed to be ridiculously healthy for you as well I think, more so than the domesticated greens (i.e. spinach)

      • Teresa May 11, 2012 at 9:24 am #

        What a fantastic idea. I love kimchi – never would have thought to add dandelion greens to it. Just started lacto-fermenting a couple of years ago and love it.

        You just gave me a great idea for this summer.

      • Leslie May 11, 2012 at 9:48 am #

        Oh wow, that sounds amazing! Did you make it with just the greens, or was it cabbage kimchi with dandelion greens added in?

        • Dancedancekj May 11, 2012 at 10:28 am #

          It was actually dandelion greens mixed with mustard greens and watercress from the farmer’s market (since I didn’t have enough dandelion greens to make a full batch). Haha, don’t get me wrong, I love the regular cabbage kimchi but this stuff was pretty amazing!

          • Gerard May 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

            What a cool idea! Thank you!

    • carolinakaren May 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      Chickweed is also abundant and tasty raw or steamed. Raw in a salad it tastes a little like cornsilk….steamed it tastes like spinach.

  12. lurker May 11, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    still nothing about growing your own? where is the gardening article Mr. MMM?
    permaculture guest post? cheers. good short info packed item. by the way.
    a punch in the stomach instead of the face!!!!

    • Teresa May 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      Ha! I suppose MMM can’t cover it all. Paul Wheaton has it covered pretty well on the permies stuff.

  13. James May 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    We have found making friends at the local co-op or bulk foods store is well worth it. We get 10 pound boxes of whole wheat organic spaghetti, 40 pound boxes of organic peanuts for making homemade peanut butter, 50 pound bags of hard red wheat for grinding and making bread, etc. We also pick up a farm share box every week full of local produce from a farm just outside of town.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      Wow James – 40 pound boxes of peanuts sound intriguing to me. Any idea of what that works out to in cost-per-pound after you make it into peanut butter?

  14. Heather May 11, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    My food peeve: Everyone is obsessed with making food taste as good as possible. Even when we cook at home, there is great societal value placed in making things taste great. But, really, food tastes too good already. That’s why we get fat. Most of us have only a limited amount of willpower, and it comes and goes. It seems foolish that weight watching magazines are all full of low calorie delicious recipes, when what we really need is healthy, boring food.
    That’s why when I want to lose weight, I make a big pot of beans and rice, and eat as much as I want any time I want. No flavoring allowed. Cottage cheese too. I don’t really like it with nothing in it, that’s why I buy it and eat it that way for lunch.
    This is not a novel idea, but it’s one I think is worth spreading.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 9:20 am #

      I’m with you on the Utility Food idea, Heather!

      We still cook up a bit of ultra-deliciousness every few days as a way of reminding ourselves that we have a luxurious and fancy life. But on a daily basis, I tend to follow the “eat to live” rather than “live to eat” tradition.

      So I’m constantly eating bowls of raw unsalted, unroasted almonds (healthy but not addictive to me like the roasted/salted/BBQ/honey types). Bowls of plain oats with flax seed and fruit. Eggs with cheese and spices. Bananas with “just peanuts” peanut butter on them. Roasted skin-on potatoes cooked in loads of olive oil. Totally not gourmet stuff, and as a result I don’t feel compelled to have seconds and thirds at mealtime.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque May 11, 2012 at 11:02 am #

        It’s the “Unsalted” part that’s important when getting nut or nut mixes.
        I remember people telling me how much they liked pistachios when those suddenly became popular about ten years ago.
        No, sir, you don’t like pistachios. You just like salt.
        And Bananas with peanut butter? Now you’re just trying to freak us out. What do you wash that down with? An equal parts mixture of milk and olive oil?

        • Johonn May 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

          Bananas with peanut butter is actually quite tasty. As is peanut butter on apple slices.

      • Rod May 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

        Try this thought, “food is fuel, not therapy”. It’s the one I use to remind me that the vast majority of meals should be about charging me up rather than indulgence.

    • Baughman May 11, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      I second Heather’s comment. I bike 60 miles/week, am 6’2″, weigh 175 (and have weighed so since I turned 15, 15 years ago), have single digit body fat, and eat all I freaking want. People will blame my plight on genetics. That’s hogwash.

      I’ve said before, but most of obesity can be attributed to one problem: lack of fiber ingestion (with the obvious companion of a sedentary lifestyle). The most important metric in food consumption is the fiber/calorie ratio. By eating foods that are loaded in fiber, you feel full. It is impossible to consistently overeat when consuming high fiber meals. You will experience horrible diarrhea before getting fat.

      Since high fiber meals are all I eat (oatmeal, beans, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat breads, veggies, fruits, nuts), I can stuff my face any time I want, always feel full, and not gain an ounce of weight. I eat more than anyone I have ever met. My wife and I laugh because we literally eat meals at home prior to eating over at friends houses, because there is inevitably not enough food to feed us.

      Excuse me while I eat my second lunch of the day: a half cup of raw almonds.

      LIke MMM, I think there are many paralells between eating and personal finance. Both require discipline. Mastery of both is dumb simple. Problems in both are caused by our own stupidity. Problems in both are aggravated by marketers. Problems in both are augmented by our own affluence and detachment from reality.

    • Naomi May 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      I have the opposite theory. I think people eat too much because their food is too bland. It takes more volume to become sated. I have noticed a correlation among my friends: those who are afraid of strong flavors and prefer bland foods are more likely to be overweight.

    • Heidi May 29, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      Well said! We practice this in our house, too, and I think eating the same thing makes the extra-effort meals much more delicious. There must be a way to apply that rule of diminishing returns–if I pay so much, start with whole foods, apply a little time–then that is the best result. That extra 10% of money and time won’t help my family more. Likely, it will just raise expectations.

  15. Dragline May 11, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Nice post, MMM — too bad it seems you are preaching to the choir, here! Ah, well.

    More broadly, eating a healthy diet is almost a requirement of living a frugal lifestyle, because getting sick — particularly with a chronic illness — can be really hard on your ‘stashe! I find this thought to be a motivating factor to help abstain from the onslaught of processed junk out there, particularly the sweet stuff. Eating healthy is essentially a form of saving/investing.

    I also find Gompertz law of human mortality to be enlightening and motivating. See http://gravityandlevity.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/your-body-wasnt-built-to-last-a-lesson-from-human-mortality-rates/

    http://gravityandlevity.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/usa-death_rates.png?w=600&h=216

    Basically what it shows is that human mortality increases exponentially as we age, but really doesn’t pick up until after age 60. So I figure if I can even maintain the vital signs of someone below that age (40 would be better, but below that is just vanity) I’m going to live a long time and be healthy, too. Eating healthy most of the time is where that starts. But its also nice to know that perfection is not required.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      Speaking of hard on the ‘Stash, there’s another factor I’ve never mentioned: eating fewer calories costs less!

      That sounds obvious, but check it out – we learned in the “how to be slim” article that when you are overweight, you actually need MORE calories per day just to maintain the extra body tissue. So you’re paying extra for food, even if you eat healthy food, just to maintain your unwanted extra body fat.

      By maintaining an ideal weight, you’ve got a smaller body that needs fewer calories. I really notice this myself now – I’m eating about one full meal less per day than in my university days when I had a more blocky physique at 206 pounds, vs. the current more wiry 175′ish.

      Of course, physical activity will bring the calorie needs back up, maybe doubling them in the case of someone who bikes 10 miles to work and hikes on the weekends. That will cost you a few bucks in groceries, but hopefully pay you back on doctor bills and productivity.

      But the bottom line is, I’m no longer interested is paying for extra food that just goes to maintain a set of love handles.

      (And sorry, Emmers, I know you don’t like me talking about slimness, but my own personal taste just leans towards bumpy muscles with veins running here and there across the body. Perhaps it’s due to masculine insecurity or the inspiration of all those Arnold movies I watched as a teenager. But I’ve read extensively that it’s healthier to operate on fewer calories, rather than at a permanent surplus. This leads inevitably to a pretty low amount of fat storage).

  16. Tom Armstrong May 11, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Hard for me to know what’s advertised on television, since I don’t have one at the house. However, I can infer that to be advertised on television, the ‘food” would have to have a sexy package, be easy to get from shelf (pantry or refrigerator shelf) to table in a minute or two via the microwave, and involve lots of processing by some faceless company that may or may not have started as a legitimate family-run deli.

    Most fruits and vegetables in my dietary plan can be taken from the refrigerator and eaten directly, or cooked for a short time to enhance their appeal in some way (but not so thoroughly cooked as to lose their tastiness or value as foods).

    No, I’m no food saint, either. I won’t even say I’m average-good about my food choices, since I don’t have a good sense of where that point is on the scale of “always good, clean, healthy food” to “entirely junk food.” I do better than I once did, for certain, and feel better as a result.

  17. charmer May 11, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    I couldn’t help but chime in…..a passion of mine is eating healthy food. I often find there is too much of a focus on “Cancer Cures” and not enough on cancer prevention. Having said that, at any chance I get I try to steer people in the right direction. Usually, if a book or a website is trying to sell you something, avoid it. There is a website that I encourage everyone to check out that will help people choose healthy foods which in turn should help you live a healthy life. It’s a physician who compiles scores of research articles and condenses them into short videos to sum up what the latest research has to say. You will not find any advertisements. As a bonus, you’ll find it’s not as expensive as you think to eat healthy. I have no affiliation with this website, just a passion for helping people live healthy. My form of helping prevent cancer. This physician deserves praise for his work. By the way…love your website MMM!

    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/1-anticancer-vegetable/

    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/biggest-nutrition-bang-for-your-buck/

  18. Michael May 11, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Wow, I can’t believe that nobody has commented on how disgusting it is that you actually ripped open 10 trash bags that somebody else left you.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

      Yeah, well it wasn’t my FIRST choice of activity for a Saturday morning, but what else am I going to do? Just send ‘em all to the landfill because I’m too prissy to touch other people’s cans and bottles? That would be the opposite of our cherished ideal of Badassity!

      • Joy May 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

        MMM,

        Thanks for sorting the trash, you did us all a favor. :)

        I would enjoy a post on the proper way to dispose of
        trash. It may seem like a no brain-er to you but, I am lacking
        in that area.

        I mean everything from paint, oil, plastic, batteries, etc..

        The thing I do know is bio-hazard waste. :)

  19. carl May 11, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    It is possible to eat too much leaves. Excess vitamin K can lead to blood clots where you don’t want them. A friend of mine had a (non fatal) heart attack because of too many green drinks.

    Whole grains might be worse than advertised. Lots of anti-nutrients in the bran. See Anthony Colpo on the subject:

    http://anthonycolpo.com/?p=2385

  20. Seth May 11, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    For breakfast, my wife and I are big fans of Greek yogurt. Though expensive compared to regular yogurt, it’s much higher in protein content. My normal breakfast is a couple dollops of unsweetened Greek yogurt with some granola and fruit on top, finished off with a drizzle of honey.

    I also think that part of the problem is not just food intake, nor just lack of exercise, but rather an unhealthy combination of both. I’m relatively active overall, but still sit in a cubicle for 8hrs a day. I certainly don’t need the same amount of food my grandfather did when he was logging the west coast, or running a farm. Consequently, i don’t generally eat lunch. Some might say that’s not particularly healthy, but it works for me.

    Seth

    • Leslie May 11, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      I don’t know if this is possible where you work, but I have found that getting a standing desk has made my 8 hours in a cubicle much more pleasant. You can get a doctor to write a note saying you need one if your organization is otherwise not inclined to get one for you. (I got mine because I have a knee problem that’s exacerbated by long periods of sitting, although my kind and generous boss did not make me get a note for it.) Mine is a convertible platform that sits on the desk and can be raised and lowered. Standing up for 8 hours still isn’t logging the west coast, but it does feel way better than sitting for 8 hours!

      • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 10:48 am #

        I just recently converted to a standing set up at work too. I love it. It’s been a bit challenging due to my height (6’3″), but with the right boxes, etc, to bring my keyboard and screens up to a proper height it’s working well. I’ve heard that sitting on one of those exercise balls instead of regular chair can be a great option too.

        • Redeyedtreefr0g May 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

          I’m not seeing the advantage of an exercise ball over a chair. I’m not slouching, maybe?
          The ball is cold to the touch. It makes my pants damp from sweat too, though. The ball never stays under the desk when I try to put it there- it rolls out because sitting on it flattens the thing. I always end up sitting with the ball braced against my calves to keep it from rolling. When I’m bored or happy, it is fun to bounce on, though.

          I miss my computer chair with arms that was wide enough (I’m fairly small) to fit my Jack Russel comfortably beside me. We never get to cuddle anymore.

          • Erik Y May 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

            I think the idea is that it encourages your muscles to work more than sitting in a chair. Keeping your back upright, maintaining balance, etc.

          • Fawn May 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

            Exercise balls have issues too, if you sit on them too long. I gave myself a blood clot by sitting too long on my skinny ass on the ball. It compressed the vein in the groin, leading to decreased return blood flow.

            No permanent harm done. It WAS fun to bounce on though.

    • ghyspran May 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Yogurt is super easy to make from a starter. You pretty much just heat some milk to 90-110F (yeast’s ideal temperature), then throw in a couple tablespoons of active culture yogurt, then cover and leave somewhere overnight where the temperature won’t drop too cold. I usually stick the bowl in the microwave and stick a cup of boiling water next to it. You can run the yogurt through some cheesecloth if you want to thicken it, otherwise it’s fine as-is, just a bit thinner.

  21. Lex_Rex May 11, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    The MBA guy in the article reminds me of the time when I was living off-campus in the US. My housemates were shocked to see me prepare three-course dinners from scratch. To them, food was something you could get at Micky D’s, Arby’s or the deep-freeze section of the local supermarket.
    To me, this experience explains the epidemic of obesity in the US. There’s a very unhealthy food culture there. Not that it’s that much better in Western Europe. When I’m in Eastern Europe or Central Asia, I always notice the generally lower BMI there…

    • lindsey May 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      I don’t know where you went in Eastern Europe, but I am there quite frequently because my family lives there. I am here to tell you they are among the fattest populations, not thinnest. Russia, the Stans, Romania, Bulgaria…the people get larger and larger with age.

  22. ESB May 11, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    I broke my diet coke addiction with cans of sparkling water. I realized it was the act of drinking something fizzy out of a can that I really liked. LaCroix makes several great no calorie, no sweetener flavors. I also do two-thirds sparkling with one-third juice to really think I’m drinking something special.

    • Christine Wilson May 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      I like to add lemon instead of juice. Its tasty and no worry of extra sugars!

    • Leslie May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      I just started doing this too! More for health reasons (although it is less than half as expensive as Diet Coke), because compounds in cola syrup leach calcium from your bones. It’s really the fizz that’s the best part – I don’t miss the Coke flavor at all.

  23. Matt May 11, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Anyone else read or tried the 4 Hour Body program? I just started the program and mainly the diet portion is avoid white carbs and fruit. There’s a more but that is the biggest factor. Just curious what others thought of it.

    • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Yes, I have those books. If you are talking about the “slow carb” diet, it generally works. It’s basically paleo with beans. But you have to recognize that everything works compared to SAD (Standard American Diet).

      As for beans, you will find screaming obnoxious debates about them if you care to look. My view is that some people can tolerate them and some not. And you know who you are.

  24. Brooke May 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Eating habits of roommates I could go on about! I never had a student loan and lived on ramen noodles and burritos during college to pay my way through. I had a roommate who filled a fridge with $80 worth of groceries she would not eat. Some of the groceries made no sense to me because she would eat ice cream and protein powder to put on weight but the rest of the groceries would just sit their uneaten and it would drive me nuts! Since I started aggressively growing my money mustache my diet got so much better. I make it a rule to buy fruits and vegetables first after reading an article advising we spend at least 60% of our grocery budget on that. The beauty of this is when you fill up on all that fiber you don’t feel as hungry or need to spend as much money on junk. I manage to spend just $56 bucks on groceries a month and with a crock pot and google recipe searches I have learned how to be a saavy cook and don’t feel like I am going hungry to save money the way I did when I was in college. When thinking about some of the principles behind the book “Your Money Or Your Life” I think the quality of my life is probably double that of someone who is eating out all the time. Some of the meals I am cooking up would probably cost $20 a plate but I’m getting them for $2! Mwahahaha (Mustache Twirl)!

  25. Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple May 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    I really liked your point in one of the comments about saving money by eating less. In ’02, I embarked on a weight loss program (Weight Watchers). I lost almost 1/3 of my body weight, and ended up eating 1/3 less, and lo and behold, my grocery bill went down by almost that much.

    I will admit, though, that before that, my diet wasn’t the best. I thought I was eating healthfully (I did belong to a CSA and eat veggies), but there were an awful lot of fake foods in my life, plus fast food, plus diet coke. I’ve really turned it around a lot in the last decade. Our diets have been MUCH better for sure.

    When I think about living on ramen in college and other processed foods…ugh. I see the youngsters at my office eating that junk (not nearly as much as I did at that age though), and it makes me shudder.

    If you had told 32 year old Marcia that 41 year old Marcia would be eating almond butter on homemade whole grain bread and chard, turnip green, beet green, and bacon frittata for breakfast, quinoa, bean, pepper, beef bowl for lunch, and kale for dinner, I would have laughed! And if you had told me I’d be drinking maybe one diet coke a month (at most), I would not have believed you either.

    But junk food is so much a part of peoples lives growing up now, most people don’t even really think about it anymore.

    • Christine Wilson May 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      “If you had told 32 year old Marcia that 41 year old Marcia would be eating almond butter on homemade whole grain bread and chard..”

      This always reminds me about how much we change throughout our lives! I think we tend to think of our identities as static while in reality we change so much. This also reminds me that I need to more of everything you mentioned! Relapsed as of late.. time to start again!

      It’s sad that people live off a fast food diet.. I mean its so unhealthy for you. You wouldn’t even feel good about life anymore!

  26. Naomi May 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    This is the most compelling video I have seen regarding diet and health: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

    • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      Yes, that is a very good one and represents a great combination of knowledge and experience. The diet she describes is essentially my baseline — I think it helps the body regenerate and thereby promotes longevity.

      Reminds me I need to eat my ration of liver this week! Have you ever tried making Kale chips like she mentions? That is on my list of things to do.

      • Naomi May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

        YES YES YES!!! Those kale chips are AMAZINGLY delicious.

        I have not found a palatable way to eat organ meat yet! Any suggestions?

        • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

          I’m partial to your basic liver and onions sauteed in a pan. But I confess I will eat just about anything just to see what its like. I once ate a whole duck’s liver in France. And tripe soup in Romania. Probably not much help.

          Dr. Wahls has some books with recipes, but I have not investigated them.

  27. Acorn May 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Just wanted to add that the obvious nutritious and inexpensive oatmeal breakfast does not have to be sweet. I know most sweeten their oats with honey and fruit, but it is just as easy, and perhaps even more satisfying, to add some chopped ham, cheese and peppers. Or tomatoes, black beans and chili powder. Or scallions and soy sauce. Or top it with an egg…
    Savoury oatmeal also makes a great lunch or dinner.

  28. Russell May 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Although Michael Pollan is most famous for his food-related books, I also highly recommend his earlier books “Second Nature” and “A Place of My Own”. Both are all about his quest to learn new skills in self sufficiency, with a healthy helping of journalistic exploration thrown in. “Second Nature” is Pollan’s exploration of gardening and searching for the right balance between civilized and wild nature. “A Place of My Own” takes you through the construction of a writing house by an author who lacks any construction skills going into the project.

  29. Frank May 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    I’ve been using a pressure cooker for making beans, oatmeal, lentils, soups, etc. It’s an old model with one of those jiggly tops, but works well for me. I think a pressure cooker is the way to go with many mustachian oriented foods.

  30. Jimmy May 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Eat your colors, eh? How’s this “Klingon blood pink” soup for color? http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash2/156230_10150972674592494_500082493_12048897_896447152_n.jpg

    • Dragline May 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Looks like borscht. With some extra weird pinkness. You sure its not diluted pink slime though?

      • Jimmy May 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

        Borscht is close. It’s beet, turnip, kohlrabi, etc soup. Quite tasty actually. :)

  31. Cocolaka May 12, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Do not forget a glass of wine (one only and a small one). The French paradox!

  32. carolinakaren May 12, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    Sorry for mentioning the “Sugar” video again! I read through all the comments and somehow missed that Dragline had already posted about it. (several phone calls distracting my reading I think) I appreciate all the meal suggestions that came from this topic. I can’t wait to try some of these ideas!

  33. Felix May 12, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Nutrition has become the new religion. If anyone had told me that grown men (not schoolgirls) talk about fiber, sugar and organic granola, I would have laughed him in the face. Sugar is not toxic or harmful in moderation. The studies this notion is based on are done on overweight sedentary people who were made to eat 25% of their calories in the form of fructose. Well, yeah, that makes you sick, but there’s little surprise in that as it boils down to getting 50% of your calories from table sugar, or over 300g of pure sugar per day. There is also no functional difference between the sugar in a banana and the sugar one might add to a cup of coffee. The fiber-argument also doesn’t hold, as there’s not much fiber in a banana. If you get your vitamins and minerals for the day elsewhere, there’s no reason (at least none supported by any meaningful research) to avoid sugar.
    The additional calories from sugars (caloric sweeteners) compared to numbers in the 70s is 38 calories per day, compared to over 150 each for dairy fats and (breads, flours and cereals). 38 calories, that’s less than a tablespoon. Or the sugar in half a banana.
    Upping your vegetable intake is a good thing. So is eating mostly whole foods in general. But avoiding sugar like an zealot is really hard to defend.

    More here:
    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/
    here:
    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/02/19/a-retrospective-of-the-fructose-alarmism-debate/
    and here:

    • Tomas May 14, 2012 at 2:41 am #

      right, been there, done that
      there’s no reason to avoid sugar whatsoever
      sugar is just that, sugar
      it’s not something that makes you NOT eat sufficient minerals and vitamins

  34. Jill May 12, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Thank you for pointing out that your kids are picky despite your best efforts! I have a picky son and I hate the condescending advice people give me. I fed him many types of food and he doesn’t like a lot of things that he used to now that he’s eight. People always tell me to make him eat what I want, but he just literally won’t eat. Yes, I suppose I could starve him but I am not interested in doing that. So, some nights we eat spaghetti and I make him buttered noodles. Or we eat stir fry and he eats stir fry with the meat, veggies and rice separated! I do think he’ll grow out of it. I am now an adventurous eater but as a kid I always ordered the hamburger when we went out to our local Chinese place!

    • T-Lou May 12, 2012 at 8:03 am #

      I have 2 daughters – the oldest has been a great eater since she got her first taste of real food at 6 months of age – green beans that I meant to only feed her a tablespoon of but she would have none of that. She ate raw oysters on the half shell with her father by age 3. When she’s been sick or been at sleepovers with friends where food is not good she comes home asking for a large salad or platter of vegetables. Similarly she exercises lots and sleeps well.

      Contrast this to my youngest daughter who we used to call a”breetharian” as she seemed to subsist on air alone. Her tastes ran to anything white and bland. She’s been a vegetarian for the past 3 years – and I constantly ask things like – what protein are you having with that? or have some fruit or vegetable before you open that box of cereal. Her dietary tastes would naturally have her eating out of a box if left to her own devises.

      I can say that after years of struggling to have her eat anything – let alone healthy food – her diet is finally improving. She is 15. She has always maintained that her diet is not that bad when compared to her friends, and I expect she might be right.

      I addressed her picky eating by finding the foods she liked and focusing on them. She has always loved beans and broccoli – so I make burritos, white bean and tuna salad (we insist she eat some fish) lentil and bean soups and broccoli is frequently our vegetable of choice.

      It has been difficult at times. Sometimes I give in to too many cereals, drink mixes etc but I do try to limit what I buy. My daughter at times would fling open all the cupboard doors and declare that we had nothing to eat. I took this to mean no convenience food as I admit to being a bit of a food hoarder.

      But for having a second child with such sensitive taste buds I would have been insufferable towards other parents who have children who eat or sleep poorly. I do believe children are born with innate preferences. We live in a culture where it can be hard to manage diet when tastes run to white and bland as so many processed foods fit the bill. We just limit what we buy at the grocery store.

      Although I eat well these days – I didn’t always. Being the child of immigrants, I practically moved into my best friends home where glorious culinary delights such as white bread, spam, bologne, fried chicken and canned peas were the order of the day. Fortunately, my tastes now run back in line with my mothers cooking – so I understand my youngest daughter’s preference to hang with her friends and eat at their houses. I do see her tastes starting to mature and I expect she will come around to appreciate the food we serve.

  35. Mike May 12, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    My single biggest challenge has always been vegetables.

    I can remember being 4 years old, and having my mom constantly try to get me to try different kinds of vegetables. My dad finally put a stop to it by age 7, because he was getting tired of me throwing up all over the dinner table.

    That sounds like I”m exaggerating. I’m not. I have a touchy gag reflex, and to this day, if something hits my taste buds that I don’t like, the only choice is to spit it out. If I try to swallow it, I gag and vomit instantly.

    That makes it truly difficult to maintain any confidence in trying new things.

    My distaste of vegetables is legendary. I can smell a head of lettuce from 20 feet away. My family used to think this was ridiculous until my daughter went vegetarian. She now says that she believes me, because she finds meat just as disgusting as I find lettuce to be, and now she can also smell any kind of meat from quite a distance away, even if it’s hidden in a bag and she hasn’t seen it to know it’s in there.

    Because of these things, I really struggle to eat healthily. I have a decent balance of red and white meats, eggs, peanut butter, cheeses, etc. My cholesterol is perfect. I’m about 10 lbs overweight, but I can attribute that to becoming overly sedentary when I was suffering from a nasty back injury a few years back.

    Despite my vegetable issue, at 42 I’m healthier than both my 37 year old wife and my 16 year old daughter.

    But it’s not good enough. I’m so close to being able to do so much better. All I really need to do is figure out how to get some semblance of vegetables into my life, and get back on the exercise horse.

    I know that the real thing is always better than a can or bottle. But I tend to find that I have more issues with texture than taste. (for example, I can drink 100% orange juice, even with pulp, but literally cannot swallow a piece of orange).

    Are products like those V8 mixer things better than nothing at all?

    I’m also amazed at how I’m constantly derided about this situation. People literally act like playground bullies calling me names and such.

    Is part of my issue psychological? At this point, most likely yes. But I’m not going to change 38 years of vegetable issues overnight, so I have to find some “baby steps” along this way if I’m ever going to improve.

    I’d love any thoughts if anyone has them. I’ve asked about this for years online, and I’ve yet to find anyone who can truly help.

    • Rod May 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      Maybe you are having a reaction to the residual pesticides on the fruits and vegetables? Have you trIed organic options or better still, growing your own? Just a thought.

    • Lindsey May 13, 2012 at 4:13 am #

      I, too, have an accute sense of smell and difficulty swallowing down things that smell bad to me (but don’t smell bad to anyone else). I found smoothies to be the best answer, in that I manage to hide spinach, kale and a few other things in with the fruit I use in a smoothie.

    • melinda May 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      My family member John also has this gag reflex with veggies. The family attributes it to his mother boiled his baby food until the veggies disintegrated into mush (and were probably devoid of vitamins at that point). John over the years has learned to cope by just eating raw veggies. He’ll only eat onions, tomatoes, and peppers cooked (like in a fajita or spaghetti sauce).
      For me, I learned to like spinach by eating at Indian restaurants, where it is heavily spiced and delicious. I’ve also come to appreciate veggies more by daily reading HungryHungryHippie.com where the blogger makes veggies look so delicious.
      Good luck on your veggie journey!

    • Heidi May 29, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Sounds reasonable. I never liked meat much as a child and find I like it less and less as I age. I can smell meat from far, far, away and it often repulses me. Sometimes I love a piece of meat. But not often and I find ways to mask smells like always brining a chicken, using copious amount of herbs with pork, etc… My sister, conversely, always thrived on meat. I won’t even touch non-organic meats anymore.

      Do you buy organic veggies or conventional? What is one veggie you have always been able to eat? How did you prepare it?

  36. Ann May 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    Let me please clear up a misconception regarding “whole wheat” and “whole grain”. A grain such as wheat has three parts, the germ, bran,. and endosperm. When the grain is ground and all parts are retained it is indeed “whole grain” . Thus whole wheat is whole grain.

    The confusion lies when the ground whole grain flour ( be it wheat, rye, or other) is mixed with other flours that are not whole grain. And in the US products are allowed to be called “whole grain” even if they are not 100% whole grain! This is confusing and frustrating to consumers. The key is to read the ingredient list.

    If all grains on the ingredient list are “whole wheat flour”, “whole rye flour”, and so on for any grain in the product, then the bread, tortilla, or other grain product is indeed whole grain.

  37. ice May 13, 2012 at 3:04 am #

    MMM & Crew,

    Thanks for all the discussion on eating right. Unfortunately, I feel a bit confused about carbs at the moment.

    MMM says he has gone “slightly away” from sugar and bread. Others, like the Daily Apple Mark guy, claim that carbs are the devil. I guess I need to read the book suggested in the article, but how should we approach carbs? Is my morning oatmeal a good thing for me or really kind of bad?

    I know I probably eat way too many carbs. But I’m also thin (6’2″ 180), generally active, and enjoy running.

    • Joy May 13, 2012 at 6:10 am #

      Ice,

      Depends on who you are reading.

      You can find what sounds like sound reasoning to avoid carbs.
      You can also find the opposite.

      If you don’t have any health/digestive issues oatmeal is a great whole
      food.

      Before making any cuts to a whole group of foods please research
      both sides carefully.

      I have ended up with health issues from cutting my carbs very low.
      If your liver works great at making and, storing much needed glucose,(glycogen)
      then you will do fine low carb.

      If like me your liver doesn’t, you will develop health issues. While the
      body can run on ketones it really isn’t best. Although many will tell you
      that it is. If you have cancer it might be the best option to starve the
      cancer.

      Too, going very low carb for a time will cause your muscles to have less
      insulin receptors as they aren’t needed. Then if you decide to splurge
      and, eat some carbs you will get sick. As you will have developed insulin
      resistance. Meaning if you took a glucose tolerance test you would fail.
      But, this is a temporary issue and, will reverse itself in time if you decide
      to go back to eating carbs.

      The truth is our bodies do not all function the same. That is why there are
      so many “healthy diets” written by the “experts” This makes it confusing
      for us all. Listen to your body. When you start a new eating plan you often
      feel better, regardless of the plan. What some refer to as the “honeymoon” phase. So pay close
      attention to every aspect of your health. Are you colder than usual? Are you regular? Are you sleeping well? Is your hair falling out? Do you have less spontaneous energy? Are your workouts stronger/weaker? Are you urinating frequently? Is your skin dry? Is your mood ok? All of these are issues to assess, letting you know how your body is doing.

    • Christine May 13, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Hey Ice,

      More advice ;)

      I’d say avoid simple sugars because they are never very good. This means avoiding white bread, heavily processed grains as it breaks down to sugar too fast in the body causing insulin spikes. If you don’t know which breads, rice, etc are better for you than others you can always check out a GI food table like this pdf:
      http://www.diabetes.ca/files/glycemicindex_08.pdf

      Everyone needs some carbs in their diet to survive. Carbs are our primary source of energy. It breaks down into glucose which your cells need to function.

      “Carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced meal. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume approximately 225 g to 325 g of total carbohydrate per day.”

      Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/519931-how-is-glucose-broken-down-in-the-body-used-for-energy/#ixzz1uloargzY

      • ice May 14, 2012 at 6:42 am #

        Thank you you two! Quite helpful the MMM community is. Not that I’m surprised.

  38. Jackson May 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    I’m thinking the human body would benefit the most if water were the only beverage put into it. I’d be interested in the results of a month-long experiment in which a person drinks only water. My problem is that I consume too much coffee with creamer and sugar. I hardly ever drink any other non-water beverage, except milk.

  39. Exenith May 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Way too complicated. The best advice is simple:

    “Eat animals from the butcher/fishmonger, eat plants from the grocer. Stop.”

    If you don’t like the taste of an animal, don’t eat it. If you don’t like the taste of a plant, don’t eat it.

    The worst thing is parents forcing their kids to eat brocolli. Brocolli, spinach, brussel sprouts — all the green vegetables — do nothing that tastier vegetables like carrots and potatoes don’t do.

    And for god’s sake, don’t get me started on carbs or fats being “bad”. Go read archevore.com.

  40. Ryddle May 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    A good take on nutrition and eating (with a very Mustashian name) is the Free and I believe open source book “Fuck Calories”

    http://www.stumptuous.com/fuck-calories

    No, it isn’t obscene.

    Enjoy

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