What started out as an experiment to see if I could learn to cook and eat a little better, has turned into a complete change in the way I look at, think about, and consume food. Eating clean, like many health food buzzes and trends, has taken on different meanings for different people. Because of its loose context, some people choose to eliminate carbs, sugars of all kinds, and dairy. For me though, it’s been about searching out the “cleanest” forms of food I can find — free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and the like.
With this new way of eating, I’ve ditched my usual fiction fare, and have taken to researching and reading books that will help me on my quest. I asked around, and compiled a list of 10 books that will have you looking at, and thinking about food in a whole new way. And I’m not talking about diet and fad books. These books go beyond calorie counting and food elimination, but cover topics ranging from the importance of sourcing local foods, how our choices effect the environment, and how simple changes may mean a better life for others.
10 Books On The Food We Eat 1 of 11
From books I've read myself, to recommendations from trusted sources, these books will change the way you look at food, and will get you thinking the next time you're in line at the grocery store or packing your kid's lunch. But I know these recommendations just touch the surface of many more great food books out there. Which reads, if any, did I leave off the list? Or, are your favorites all included? Click through to see all 10.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life – by Barbara Kingsolver 2 of 11
A gifted storyteller and fiction writer, Barbara Kingsolver takes the reader on her own family's personal journey to eat locally sourced food, or food her family grew themselves, for a year. The book includes detailed information on what fruits and vegetables come into season at which time, and she weaves in information about modern day industrial agriculture and how we might do better. She even includes recipes written by her teenage daughter Camille, that show how wonderful local, homegrown food can be. I loved the family's philosophy that transformed how they looked at food. With resourcefulness, teamwork, and some newly acquired farm and gardening knowledge that has been lost on most modern day families, they learned to either grow it, source it, or go without. I cannot recommend this book enough, from a storytelling point of view, to a fact finding gardening resource, it's a read I couldn't put down.
Eating Animals – by Jonathan Safran Foer 3 of 11
Also from a well known author of fiction, Eating Animals was the account of years of research into the US Factory Farm system which produces 99% of the meat we consume in America. Covering all types of omnivorous eating habits, from fish to poultry, cows and pigs, the author combines transcripts from those working in the field, along with storytelling and the important role food plays in how we socialize in families, friendships, and society. Backed with plenty of notes, I found the book at times depressing and upsetting to read, but very eye-opening. It has gotten me to transform my view of eating meat, and the importance of supporting traditional animal husbandry and the humane raising of, and processing of, the animals we eat.
The Ethics Of What We Eat – by Peter Singer and Jim Mason 4 of 11
Exploring the food we buy and eat and the ethics surrounding it, including where it comes from, how it was produced, and whether it was raised with some thought to ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat explores these questions through the lenses of 3 very different families. The authors do a pretty decent job of approaching the subject of food and ethics from an unbiased, and more importantly, non-preachy sort of way. As one book review noted, it doesn't make you feel like you're being hit over the head with a morality stick, but rather gives you a very realistic breakdown of where our food comes from. The authors also offer ways the reader can choose to make more humane and healthful food choices, without being fanatical about it.
Salt Sugar Fat – by Michael Moss 5 of 11
I personally have not read this account of the processed food industry, but I've heard really strong arguments that it's a must-read. The author gives a detailed account of the rise of the processed food industry, and tells how companies and their scientists use the three pillars of salt, sugar, and fat, to get the highest rate of customer taste satisfaction — in a way, making them more addictive. Linking the rise of our intake of processed food in the US with staggering cases of diabetes and a rise in childhood obesity, the book makes you pause and look at food labels, and food from a box, in a totally different way. I'd be interested to see if the author gives any recommendations of getting unhooked, by the end of the book.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma – by Michael Pollan 6 of 11
Michael Pollan takes his readers on a journey with him, in search of food. First, he drives thru McDonald's and traces the origins of his meal all the way back to a corn field in Iowa. Then he prepares a truly organic meal from a "big organic" company and reveals how organic company policies and ethics might not be as picturesque as we think, and that profit is just as important for organic companies. Lastly, he goes hunting and foraging for his own food. In between his food journeys, Pollan talks about the importance of local, in-season food, our over-dependence and over-use of corn, and offers alternatives to how we can get back to our natural roots of eating, and get off all the "health food" diet crazes and kicks.
Harvest For Hope: A Guide For Mindful Eating – by Jane Goodall 7 of 11
While I haven't read this book, the description and reviews on it make me very much want to. Written by renowned primate scientist Jane Goodall, she urges the Western society to rethink some of our food choices, in advocacy for a more sustainable world. Written from a very optimistic point of view, she offers that even small changes can add up to big differences, and challenges us all to do our small part to make an impact.
In Defense Of Food – by Michael Pollan 8 of 11
Michael Pollan encourages Americans to get away from the worrisome habit of reading nutritional labels, and get back to basics, and nature. With one simple manifesto as the basis of his book — Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants — the author directs the reader to make changes to their diet, so they're no longer on a diet. It definitely attempts to take the complexity out of eating, and bring back the simple pleasure that food can bring.
Eating on the Wild Side – by Jo Robinson 9 of 11
The author makes a case that many of the fruits and vegetables we consume in modern times, are nutritionally inferior to their counterparts from long ago. In order to redeem and recoup the loss of essential vitamins and nutrients, the author urges us to eat on the wild side, and offers ways to choose present-day fruits and vegetables as close in nutritional value as their wild ancestor. Also provided are scientifically proven storage and cooking methods that can be used to enhance nutritional value.
Forks Over Knives The Cookbook – by Del Sroufe 10 of 11
A companion to the renowned documentary, which sought to show the way to help lower cholesterol and other chronic health problems is to cut out meat, the cookbook offers over 300 plant-based recipes. Covering every meal, all year long, the vegetarian cookbook is not about focusing on what you can't have, but all you can enjoy. A great place to start for those looking to make the switch to vegetarianism or for long-term vegetarians to spice things up in the kitchen.
It’s All Good – by Gwyneth Paltrow & Julia Turshen 11 of 11
I would be remiss if I didn't include this book here. This cookbook has changed the way I eat and even approach food, by making the idea of eating clean and healthy meals a whole lot less intimidating and scary. I love that whether you're looking to eliminate dairy or gluten or cook with less red meat and add more vegetarian dishes to your repertoire, this book offers it all, from breakfast time to dinner time, and everything in between. Even if you're not a fan of Gwyneth, it's hard to deny that the book is loaded with a wide selection of healthy recipes that taste really darn good.
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