In Food Rules, Michael Pollan states in Rule 6 on page 15, "Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients. The specific number you adopt is arbitrary, but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is. Note 1: A long list of ingredients in a recipe is not the same thing; that's fine. Note 2: Some products now boast, somewhat deceptively, about their short ingredient lists. Haagen-Dazs has a new line of ice cream called "five". Great-but it's still ice cream. Same goes for the three ingredient Tostitos corn chips advertised by Frito-Lay-okay, but they are still corn chips."
Michael Pollan has been a real inspiration to me. In fact it was Food Rules and In Defense of Food that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. But I am particularly frustrated by this rule. It is one of the most important tenants of a new crop of real food people out there. There are blogs all over of people adopting rules for themselves. And I LOVE it. I love that Americans are getting angry and taking action in their own life. But I don't get all the blind faith in the number 5.
I think it is human nature to be inspired by the work of a trailblazer like Pollan. And it is also normal to want to throw away your past and jump on board. I admit it, I am a Pollan disciple. But I am frustrated when people who read the rule (in bold face) and forget to read the fine print.
I don't live by the 5 ingredient rule. It would complicate my life too much right now. And there are some foods, just as he mentions, that are kind of evil that fall into the 5 ingredient category, like Fritos, or high sugar jam. I actually think the 5 ingredient rule is good for those just starting out in trying to eliminate processed foods from their diets. But for me and my family, there are some products like Mary's Gone Crackers and Utz's Organic Whole Grain Pretzels and the New Morning Organic Oatio's that all have more than 5 ingredients. They are not the foods in my pantry that I am the happiest about, but I have found brands that do not contain preservatives and -ides and -oses. So I am willing to make peace with it. Also, after just taking an inventory, I have only found 5 or so items that are even over the 5 ingredient rule. And I believe that that normally happens when you favor minimally processed foods.
Rather than strictly stick to the 5 ingredient rule I choose to cast a skeptical glance on all pre-packaged foods. However the ones that we do eat will contain ONLY real food ingredients, whole grains, preferably organic and low sugar. If I can keep our pre-packaged food intake down to a minimum and see that only high quality items are consumed, then I am happy not having to follow the 5 ingredient rule. My life is not an experiment. I am not trying to do something extraordinary to prove that it can be done. I have never liked proving myself to anyone, I am who I am, period. I am looking to eat this way for the REST of my life, and teach my kids how to do it too. Plus I don't really like rules too much.
And folks, I am taking tomorrow off! See you next week!