Friday, December 11, 2015

Top Five Books for Eaters of Food

'Tis the season for list making. The "best" of this, the "worst" of that. Usually about events, products, and personages pertaining to the year that's on its way out; in this case, 2015.

This is not one of those.

My list is for all of you who are in the midst of holiday shopping, and maybe you've got someone in your life that has an interest in health and nutrition, weight loss, or just weight management. Now buying diet books as gifts is tricky; you don't want to be like, "Here, I thought you could use this to HELP YOU LOOSE WEIGHT!" That would go over like a lead reindeer, wouldn't it? The cool thing about my list is that these books are tools for learning about more than just dieting. For instance, you won't find a single "21-Day Diet!" type thing here--and there's just one cook book (sorry!). Instead, your friend or relative or co-worker (or, let's be honest, you--you're going to get at least one Barnes and Noble gift card, you know you will) will get a lot more than that.

From each of these five books, you'll learn something new about food, its history, its incredible diversity, and its ever-changing role in culture and health.  And a thing or two about how to eat the right stuff, for you, your family, and your budget.

I didn't pick these books because they are the very best books of their type on the market (though I think they'd easily make that list). I picked them because they are the best books I've read on the subject of food (so far). They influenced me to start this blog, and to be "tuned in" about what I think is the main problem with food today--that it has become "product", and whatever gets that "product" to market looking the best, at the lowest cost, with the highest rate of return, regardless of whether it is even "food" anymore.  I have listed them in the order that I read them, so it's not a case of one being necessarily better than the other in ranking. 

Sick of the preamble? Let's get to the list!

by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding
Why I like it: This is part of a very popular series that I'm sure everyone is familiar with, being, as they are, so ubiquitous that they are for sale in my local Kinkos (??). I like this one in particular because of the simple, easy-to-follow recipes that break down not just the calories, but compare the home made version to what you'd be consuming by having the same meal in a restaurant.

Who it would make a good gift for: A young person, maybe just starting college, or moving out on their own, or anyone who needs a little jump start to stop eating out and learn the benefits of kicking' it in the kitchen. It can guide a beginner through the process of cooking, give tips on how to prepare all the meals of the day including snacks, as well as the aforementioned calorie comparison--a kind of "scared-straight" of calorie counting!
Click here for details.

by Michael Pollan
Why I like it: This book can fit in your pocket, for one thing. It's a handy-dandy little guide, a "commonplace book," if you will, for the eaters among us. Author Michael Pollan is much more famous for writing probably the seminal work in the world of food and health, "An Omnivore's Dilemma," but I haven't read that yet, so I can't recommend it personally. I can recommend this, though, as a great introduction to healthy eating habits, broken down into quick, bite-sized morsels (natch!). 

Who it would make a good gift for: Someone who is just getting interested in how diet affects health, and wants tips to eating (and feeling!) better.
Click here for more details.

by Robert H. Lustig, M.D.
Why I like it: I first learned Dr. Lustig's name watching the documentary "Fed Up!". He impressed me as the person talking who was making the most sense, and who seemed the most knowledgeable about the topic of obesity, its causes, and its dangers. This book follows his experiences as a pediatric endocrinologist and how that led him to, unexpectedly, to become a healthy diet champion. It is a very readable book, written in a warm, self-deprecating yet serious tone. I highly recommend it.

Who it would make a good gift for: If there is someone in your life who has an interest in learning about how food affects health and chronic diseases, this would be a great choice for its in-depth, and possibly life-changing, information.
Click here for more details.

by Jo Robinson
Why I like it: This book has it all. Explanations of the origins of the plants we eat, why some plants are better for us than others, and, most helpfully, how to select the best quality fruits and vegetables in the market and how to store them for maximum freshness at home. And, for you gardeners out there, Ms. Robinson supplies lots of info on what seeds to buy and how to cultivate them. This is probably my favorite book on this list.

Who it would make a good gift for: Someone who is ready to dive into the deep end of food, serious about wanting to shop smarter and eat healthier. Also, as mentioned, a good choice for the gardeners in your life.
Click here for more details.

by Mark Schatzker
Why I like it: This book is like a culmination of all the others on this list and then some, though it has most in common with "Fat Chance," in that it is focused on the science behind food today (and why that can be a bad thing). It is a great, easy to read examination of that stuff on our grocery shelves, how it got that way, and why we as consumers should be running in the opposite direction.

Who it would make a good gift for: The person who has had enough of commercialized food "product", who no longer accepts that a calorie is a calorie, or who thinks that meals should never come in through the window of a car. With this book, this person is about to achieve a black belt in consumer wisdom.
Click here for more details

That list again:

Cook This, Not That!
by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding

Food Rules, An Eater's Manual
by Michael Pollan

Fat Chance
by Robert H. Lustig, M.D.

Eating on the Wild Side
by Jo Robinson

The Dorito Effect
by Mark Schatzker

That's it! I hope this has been helpful--happy shopping! 

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