Lately, I have noticed the proliferation of articles listing all the superfoods that we should be eating but presumably aren't.
Take Tara Parker-Pope's "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating." Or a recent article by Selene Yeager for Bicycling magazine about "The New Superfoods." There's Dr. Perricone's 10 superfoods, featured on Oprah, and Best Life's "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day."
(There's also a Women's Health's feature on the 125 best packaged foods for women -- as if we need to be eating more packaged foods).
I have mixed feelings about these features. On the one hand, it is great to see some less-commonly consumed foods get media attention, like pumpkin seeds, lentils, turmeric, and açaí (even if the last one is only readily available in Brazil). If articles like these can encourage ordinary Americans to look beyond coldcuts and fried chicken for food choices, so much the better. But these kinds of articles practice what Michael Pollan would call "nutritionism" -- lauding an individual food's presumed nutritional benefits over any understanding of where this food fits into a food culture, or even a meal.
Take açaí, for example: this tiny berry is found fresh only in tropical rain forests, and forms an important part of the diet of some Amazon-dwellers. Outside these regions, however, it is hard to conceive of the fresh fruit as being a regular item in anyone's diet. So why list it as a "super-food" if it is inaccessible to the majority of Americans? What is super about the amount of petroleum that goes towards importing, frozen, a tiny berry from the South to the North?
Instead of creating lists of must-eat foods (must eat? when? where? how much?), how about a list of how to eat.
1. Eat food you like.
2. Make your own food when possible. This solves a lot of concerns regarding freshness, contents, healthfulness, portion size, etc.
3. Take time to savor your food -- turn off all appliances and remove yourself from other distractions when it is mealtime.
4. Eat food with others. Share!
5. Cultivate gratitude for your food, in any way or faith you have.
6. Slow down. This can mean chewing more slowly, eating locally grown food, joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, or growing your own food. Take time to think about where your food comes from.
7. Read cookbooks for fun. Ask other people to share their favorite recipes with you. Make food preparation a hobby.
8. Try to eat foods in their most "natural" state -- the way food was meant to be. This includes produce grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers; pasture-raised meats; whole fat dairy products; and whole grains.
9. Know when to stop eating; learn to recognize when you're full, and find ways to mark the transition from "meal time" to "life time."