Good Reads: What to Eat, by Marion Nestle
As the subtitle of this book indicates, What To Eat is “An Aisle by Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating.” Ms. Nestle, a nutritionist and the author of Food Politics sheds some light not only on the best choices at the grocery store, but also on how the grocery stores, the food companies, various food lobby groups, and the government influence what you eat. This was an eye-opening book, though at times it was a bit dry. It is also quite long at 524 pages. I opted to read a few chapters at a time, then take a break to read fiction, then come back to What to Eat. Every time I returned to this book, I was once again captivated and fascinated by what Ms. Nestle had to offer.
Here are some things from the book I found particularly fascinating:
- A section on yogurt and how food companies are increasingly turning yogurt into a dessert by adding sugar and different flavors. This is an example of food companies taking advantage of the “cash cow” that is yogurt, and promoting “line extensions” with an infinite variety of different flavors.
- The bottom line from the section on dairy substitutes is that margarine is not a good substitute for butter, even though the makers of margarine products are spending millions of dollars in advertising to convince you otherwise.
- It is pointed out in a discussion of meat that Tyson Foods owns one-fourth of the entire United States market for chicken, beef, and pork, and that just four meat processing plants slaughter 80% of all beef cattle and 50% of hogs. That is seriously problematic, if you ask me!
- There is also a great discussion of the confusion surrounding meats labeled “natural” vs. meats labeled “organic.” I didn’t know the difference, and I bet you don’t either. Turns out most store managers that sell meats with these labels don’t really understand it either!
- How large of an impact the Sugar Lobbies have on government warnings and recommendations regarding sugar.
- One of the most interesting sections of the whole book focused on breakfast cereals and what all of those health endorsements you see on the boxes(think American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association) really mean.
I think What to Eat should be required reading for anyone who shops at the grocery store on a regular basis, and this is definitely a book I would recommend to those who want to know more about the politics and marketing efforts behind the products you see on grocery store shelves. A fascinating and eye-opening book!