michael pollan

Michael Pollan's Least Favorite Foods

An expert outlines how to not be tricked at the supermarket.

By Leah Zerbe


Michael Pollan's Least Favorite Foods

Step number one for navigating the grocery-store minefield: Avoid anything processed.

#4: Kraft Bagel-fuls
Most people would agree that it's not too difficult to spread cream cheese on a bagel. The food industry thinks otherwise, and has come out with prepackaged, pre-stuffed bagels. What you might not realize is these are also stuffed with corn- and soy-derived ingredients that come from crops genetically engineered to be doused in pesticides.
Pollan's Food Rule: Skip mood-busting engineered-food breakfast items like bagels, and cook up pastured eggs. You can buy these directly from local sustainable farmers.

#5: Splenda with Antioxidants
"Splenda is an artificial sweetener made of corn derivative," Pollan explained, noting that taking cheap commodity crops like corn, soy, and wheat and turning them into complex products is a hallmark of food marketers. Adding nutrients like antioxidants is a marketing gimmick, said Pollan. "So now you have a non-nutritious sweetener with an extra nutrient," he added. Canada Dry is doing the same thing—adding antioxidants and vitamin C to products. "So now we're supplementing soda," Pollan said. "Is that sending a mixed message, or what?"
Pollan's Food Rule: Get your antioxidants from whole foods, not from something that comes in a package. For smarter sweetener picks, read The 4 Best and 3 Worst Sweeteners in Your Kitchen.

#6: Yoplait Low-Fat Yogurt
You would think low-fat yogurt is healthier than soda. But when considering sugar content, you might be surprised to learn that this type boosts 28 grams of sugar in a 6-ounce serving. That's substantially higher than most sodas! "See how you can try to eat healthy and get into all sorts of trouble?" Pollan pointed out.
Pollan's Food Rule: Make your own yogurt! It's easy! Or buy low-sugar versions and sweeten with real fruit or a bit of health-promoting honey.

#7: NeuroSun
This drink is loaded with vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. It's marketed as a delicious drink designed to provide all the benefits of vitamin D without the harmful effects of being outside. Marketers are actually trying to capture the cognitive decline market—people losing their brain cells, Pollan joked. Of course, you could get ample vitamin D by spending a few minutes out in the sun, by taking a supplement, or simply by eating vitamin D–rich foods. (And that would cost much less!)
Pollan's Food Rule: If a food label is making health claims, don't eat that product. The healthiest foods, such as apples, don't have the marketing budgets of processed-food manufacturers.

Published on: January 25, 2012
Updated on: January 30, 2012

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