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What to Eat


What to Eat Cover




Excerpted from What to Eat by Marion Nestle. Copyright © 2006 by Marion Nestle. Published in May 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.




I am a nutrition professor, and as soon as people find out what I do, they ask: Why is nutrition so confusing? Why is it so hard to know which foods are good for me? Why dont you nutritionists figure out whats right and make it simple for the rest of us to understand? Why cant you help me know what to eat?


Questions like these come up every time I give a talk, teach a class, or go out to dinner. For a long time, they puzzled me. I thought: Doesnt everyone know what a healthy diet is? And why are people so worried about what they eat? I just didnt get it. For me, food is one of lifes greatest pleasures, and I have been teaching, writing, and talking about the joys of eating as well as the more cultural and scientific aspects of food for nearly thirty years. My work at a university means that I do research as well as teach, and for the past decade or so I have been studying the marketing of food and its effects on health. Everyone eats. This turns the growing, shipping, preparing, and serving of food into a business of titanic proportions, worth close to a trillion dollars a year in the United States alone. I wrote about the health consequences of the business of foodunintended as those consequences may bein two books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism.


Since writing them, I have spent much of my professional and social life talking to students, health professionals, academics, government officials, journalists, community organizers, farmers, school officials, and business leadersas well as friends and colleaguesabout the social and political aspects of food and nutrition. It hardly matters who I am talking to. Everyone goes right to what affects them. Their questions are personal. Everyone wants to know what the politics of food mean for what they personally should eat. Should they be worried about hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, mercury, or bacteria in foods? Is it acceptable to eat sugars, artificial sweeteners, or trans fats, and, if so, how much? What about foods that are raw, canned, irradiated, or genetically engineered? Do I recommend calcium or any other supplement? Which is the best choice of vegetables, yogurt, meat, or bread?


Eventually I came to realize that, for many people, food feels nothing at all like a source of pleasure; it feels more like a minefield. For one thing, there are far too many choices; about 320,000 food and beverage products are available in the United States, and an average supermarket carries 30,000 to 40,000 of them. As the social theorist Barry Schwartz explains in The Paradox of Choice, this volume of products turns supermarket and other kinds of shopping into “a complex decision in which [you] are forced to invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread.” Bombarded with too many choices and conflicting messages, as everyone is, many people long for reassurance that they can ignore the “noise” and just go back to enjoying the food they eat. I began paying closer attention to hints of such longings in what people were telling me. I started asking my friends how they felt about food. Their responses were similar. Eating, they told me, feels nothing less than hazardous. And, they said, you need to do something about this. One after another told me things like this:


-You seem to think we have the information we need, but a lot of us are clueless and have no idea of how to eat.

-When I go into a supermarket, I feel like a deer caught in headlights. Tell me what I need to know so I can make reasonable choices, and quickly.

-I do not feel confident that I know what to eat. Its all so confusing.


-You tell me how to do this. I dont believe all those other people. They all seem to have axes to grind.

-Tell us how you eat.


The more I thought about what audiences and friends were telling me, the more I realized that changes in society and in the competitiveness of food companies had made the question of what to eat incredibly complicated for most people, and that while I had noticed some of the effects of such changes, I had missed others that were quite important. Years ago, I regularly shopped in suburban supermarkets in California and Massachusetts while cooking for my growing family, but that era in my life is long past. Besides, the whole shopping experience is different now. Today, too, I live in Manhattan. For reasons of space and real estate costs, Manhattan does not have enormous supermarkets like the ones in suburbs or in most cities in the United States. I live within easy walking distance of ten or fifteen grocery stores, but these are smallsometimes tinyby national standards. Only recently have larger stores like Whole Foods come into the city. And I do much less food shopping than many people. My children are now adults and live on the other side of the continent. More than that, my job requires me to eat out a lot. Because I do not own a car I either have to walk home carrying what I buy, or arrange to have food delivered. It became clear to me that if I really wanted to understand how food marketing affects health, I needed to find out a lot more about what you and everyone else are up against when you shop for foodand the sooner the better. So I did, and this book is the result.


I began my research (and that is just what it was) by visiting supermarkets of all kinds and taking notes on what they were selling, section by section, aisle by aisle. I looked at the products on those shelves just as any shopper might, and tried to figure out which ones made the most sense to buy for reasons of taste, health, economy, or any number of social issues that might be of concern. Doing this turned out to be more complicated than I could have imagined. For one thing, it required careful reading of food labels, which, I can assure you, is hard work even for nutritionists. Science and politics make food labels exceptionally complicated, and they often appear in very small print. I found it impossible to do any kind of comparative shopping without putting on reading glasses, I frequently had to use a calculator, and I often wished I had a scale handy so I could weigh things.


Supermarkets turn out to be deeply fascinating, not least because even the smallest ones sell thousands of products. Much about these stores made me intensely curious. Why, I wondered, do they sell this and not that? Why are entire aisles devoted to soft drinks and snack foods? What do the pricing signs mean, and how do they work? Why is it so hard to find some things, but not others? Are there any genetically modified or irradiated foods among the fruits and vegetables? What does “Certified Organic” mean, can it be trusted, and is it worth the higher price? Is soy milk healthier than cows milk? If an egg is “United Egg Producers Certified,” is it better? Is it safe to eat farmed fish or, for that matter, any fish at all? Is it safe to eat take-out foods? If a sugary cereal sports a label saying it is whole grain, is it better for you? Does it make any real nutritional difference whether you buy white or whole wheat bread?


The answers to these questions might seem obvious, but I did not find them so. To arrive at decisions, I measured, counted, weighed, and calculated, and read the tiniest print on product labels. When I s

Product Details

Nestle, Marion
North Point Press
Courses & Dishes - General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
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Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
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Includes an Appendix, Notes, and an Inde
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Related Subjects

Cooking and Food » Diet and Nutrition » General
Cooking and Food » Diet and Nutrition » Healthy Cooking
Cooking and Food » Diet and Nutrition » Nutrition
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature
Cooking and Food » Sustainable Cooking
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Diet and Nutrition
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Nutrition
Sports and Outdoors » Sports and Fitness » Medicine Nutrition and Psychology

What to Eat Used Hardcover
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 624 pages North Point Press - English 9780865477049 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I thought I knew quite a bit about food — I take flaxseed oil supplements because I'm a vegetarian, try to buy local organic produce, and buy my dairy antibiotic-free. But this information-packed book taught me that there's plenty I didn't realize — how much sugar hides in yogurt, the agribusiness giants that own many packaged organic foods, and what one should pay attention to on baby food labels. If you want to know more about the politics, marketing, and environmental impact of food, or if you just want to know how to eat a more healthful diet, What to Eat is an exhaustive and essential compendium, leavened with Marion Nestle's style and humor.

"Review" by , "Meticulously researched, thorough, and indispensable — Marion Nestle's What to Eat delivers on its title. It's a reliable, riveting guide to the amazing truth about what we?re sold by the American food distribution system. Refreshingly rigorous and fun to read."
"Review" by , "The industry wants you to believe there are no good foods or bad foods. Well, that's not true. And I can't think of anyone who knows the difference better than Marion Nestle."
"Review" by , When it comes to the increasingly treacherous landscape of the American supermarket, with its marketing hype and competing health claims, Marion Nestle is an absolutely indispensable guide: knowledgeable, eminently sane — and wonderful company, too.
"Synopsis" by ,
Since its publication in hardcover last year, Marion Nestle's What to Eat has become the definitive guide to making healthy and informed choices about food. Praised as "radiant with maxims to live by" in The New York Times Book Review and "accessible, reliable and comprehensive" in The Washington Post, What to Eat is an indispensable resource, packed with important information and useful advice from the acclaimed nutritionist who "has become to the food industry what . . . Ralph Nader [was] to the automobile industry" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

How we choose which foods to eat is growing more complicated by the day, and the straightforward, practical approach of What to Eat has been praised as welcome relief. As Nestle takes us through each supermarket section--produce, dairy, meat, fish--she explains the issues, cutting through foodie jargon and complicated nutrition labels, and debunking the misleading health claims made by big food companies. With Nestle as our guide, we are shown how to make wise food choices--and are inspired to eat sensibly and nutritiously.

Now in paperback, What to Eat is already a classic--"the perfect guidebook to help navigate through the confusion of which foods are good for us" (USA Today).

"Synopsis" by , How do we decide what foods to eat? In recent years, this simple question has become complicated beyond belief--as supermarkets have grown to warehouse size, and as the old advice to eat foods from four food groups has been overrun by questions about organic foods, hormones, pesticides, carbohydrates, trans fats, omega-3s, supplements, health claims, extreme diets, and, above all, obesity.

Fortunately, Marion Nestle is here to tell us what's what--to give us the facts we need to make sensible choices from the bewildering array of foods available to us. With What to Eat, this renowned nutritionist takes us on a guided tour of the supermarket, explaining the issues with verve and wit as well as a scientist's expertise and a food lover's experience.

Today's supermarket is ground zero for the food industry, a place where the giants of agribusiness compete for sales with profits--not nutrition or health--in mind. Nestle walks us through the supermarket, section by section: produce, dairy, meat, fish, packaged foods, breads, juices, bottled waters, and more. Along

the way, she untangles the issues, decodes the labels, clarifies the health claims, and debunks the sales hype. She tells us how to make sensible choices based on freshness, taste, nutrition, health, effects on the environment, and, of course, price. With Nestle as our guide, we learn what it takes to make wise food choices

and are inspired to act with confidence on that knowledge.

What to Eat is the guide to healthy eating today: comprehensive, provocative, revealing, rich in common sense, informative, and a pleasure to read. Marion Nestle received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation--the food world's highest honor--as well as the foundation's book prize. She is the author of Food Politics and Safe Food, and was featured in the documentary Super Size Me. A native of New York, she raised her family in California and now lives in Greenwich Village, where she teaches at New York University. How should you decide what foods to eat? As supermarkets have grown to warehouse size, this simple question has become complicated beyond belief. Fortunately, Marion Nestle--renowned for her sage advice on food and nutrition--is here to cut through the confusion and lay out what you need to know. In What to Eat, she takes us on a guided tour of the American supermarket and shows us exactly how to feed ourselves and our families wisely and well.

With sharp humor, expertise, and a food-lover's delight, Nestle guides us through the supermarket sections--produce, dairy, meat, fish, breads, and juices, and then to the center aisles, where big profits are made. Along the way, she reveals the big food companies' marketing practices, explains complex labels in clear language, and tells us what we need to know about:

- wild and farm-raised

- frozen and fresh

- organic, natural, and conventional

- carbs, omega-3s, and trans fats

- pesticides and the environment

- portion size, labeling, and nutrition claims

- supplements, additives, and preservatives

- food safety The industry wants you to believe there are no good foods or bad foods. Well, that's not true. And I can't think of anyone who knows the difference better than Marion Nestle.--Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation Not only is What to Eat the most comprehensive guide to the political and nutritional choices we make shopping for food, but it's also full of up-to-date research on health.--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review With this comprehensive guide, Nestle, a nutritionist, makes the weekly trip to the grocery less daunting and a healthy diet more attainable.--Science News Part muckraking journalism, part reference book and part consumer guide, What to Eat is organized in the manner suggested by the subtitle: as a walk down each grocery store aisle with a companionable Ph. D. researcher as the guide. It is a simple, yet effective, concept for organizing what otherwise could have become a mind-numbing amount of information.--Steve Weinberg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch When it comes to the increasingly treacherous landscape of the American supermarket, with its marketing hype and competing health claims, Marion Nestle is an absolutely indispensable guide: knowledgeable, eminently sane--and wonderful company, too.--Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire

The industry wants you to believe there are no good foods or bad foods. Well, that's not true. And I can't think of anyone who knows the difference better than Marion Nestle.--Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

According to nutritionist Nestle, the increasing confusion among the general public about what to eat comes from two sources: experts who fail to create a holistic view by isolating food components and health issues, and a food industry that markets items on the basis of profits alone. She suggests that, often, research findings are deliberately obscure to placate special interests. Nestle says that simple, common-sense guidelines available decades ago still hold true: consume fewer calories, exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables and, for today's consumers, less junk food. The key to eating well, Nestle advises, is to learn to navigate through the aisles (and thousands of items) in large supermarkets. To that end, she gives readers a virtual tour, highlighting the main concerns of each food group, including baby, health and prepared foods, and supplements. Nestle's prose is informative and entertaining; she takes on the role of detective, searching for clues to the puzzle of healthy and satisfying nutrition. Her intelligent and reassuring approach will likely make readers venture more confidently through the jungle of today's super-sized stores.--Publishers Weekly

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