10 Ways Omnivore’s Dilemma Changed My Life (Food Rules Giveaway)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by journalist Michael Pollan is a long book about where food comes from.   For me, it was a quick and fascinating read and I highly recommend it to everyone.  For a more accessible/ quickly digested version, you can watch Food Inc., which is based on Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation (which is too gross for me to read).  In a nutshell, OD convinced me to strive to eat more naturally, more in harmony with our own biology, more the way our ancestors ate (before fast food and TV dinners came along). Of course, I did not make all 10 of the following changes at once -- because I'm more into Going Green Gradually, doncha know.  I made these 10 changes over about a 2-year period of time.

Top Ten Ways that Omnivore’s Dilemma 
Changed My Eating Habits.

1. I spend more on food than I used to.
And feel good about it, despite the fact that in my heart I am a thrifty person.  Of all developed nations, the U.S. spends the least per capita on food and the most per capita on health care.  That’s food for thought.  Also, American Taxpayers subsidize junk food because the government subsidizes corn and soy, which are used to feed the cattle that are made into fast food hamburgers and which are converted into hundreds of weird ingredients that go into processed food.  So I skip the cheap calories, and go for the more nourishing ones.  I think searching for value instead of just cheapness is part of being thrifty.  Quality over quantity.

Me and my toddler (who is eating a carrot he just picked) 
walking through farmland where our food is grown.

2. I joined a CSA (community-sponsored agriculture).
I had already started buying more organic produce before I read OD, but OD convinced me to get my organic produce through local farmers by participating in a CSA.  Now all my money goes straight to farmers (not middle men or industrial organic companies) and I get super fresh, nutritious and delicious produce delivered close to my home. I also enjoy taking my children to see where their food comes from (see above photo).

3. I buy organic chicken thighs instead of regular chicken breasts.
When some friends from Colombia (who have a farm) visited the U.S., they were positively freaked out by the size of chicken breasts in the grocery store.  Chicken breasts in the U.S. are abnormally large because of the way we breed and raise chickens in the U.S.  I will spare you the details in case you are not interested.  Chicken breasts are also dry and tasteless, in my experience.  I can buy organic thighs for about the same price as regular breasts.

4. I no longer eat conventional beef.
Before reading OD, I had already sworn off ground beef after reading articles such as this one from the New York Times (do not read if you want to continue eating cheeseburgers at McDonald’s).  After reading OD and all about where your beef comes from (CAFOs or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), I decided no more conventional beef for me.  Disgusting and inhumane.  I still eat grass-fed free-range beef that I get through my CSA every once in a while.  It's pretty pricey.

5. I eat less meat, more tofu and beans.
This is both healthier and cheaper.  Now that I buy less processed and less medicated meat, I can’t afford to buy as much of it, so about one-third of our meals are now vegetarian.

6. I buy only cage-free eggs.
As I stated above, I made the 10 changes over a couple of years, not all at once.  But one change I did make immediately after reading OD was a switch to cage-free eggs, because I was that disturbed by what I read about the egg-laying chickens’ living conditions.  Then, when I was pregnant with my second child, I was sick for 30 weeks.  I ate 4 eggs and wheat toast for breakfast, and animal crackers for the rest of the day.  I was living off of eggs.  Since my 8-pound baby was basically made of eggs, I have forever felt very grateful for the chickens who laid those eggs.  And so I continue to feel good about paying twice as much as I have to for my eggs so that those chickens can lead a decent life (with their beaks in tact). 

7. I started paying much more attention to ingredients.
As Michael Pollan suggests, if a product has an ingredient that I’m not familiar with, I try not to buy it.  Michael Pollan's subsequent books, In Defense of Food and Food Rules,  have several other good rules for limiting your processed foods:  don’t buy anything with more than 5 ingredients, don’t buy it if your grandmother would not recognize it (blue yogurt in a tube), don’t eat it if it never rots (twinkie, spam).  Because I pay more attention to ingredients, I have cut back on processed foods, even “healthy” processed foods.  For even more "food rules" from Michael Pollan's Food Rules, click HERE for excerpts from the book.

8. I make my own bread, hummus and granola.
In general, OD convinced me that I should make my own food as much as possible.  If you make your food at home, you have a lot more control over and knowledge about what goes into it.  Any foods we eat a ton of, I try to figure out how to make myself. 

9. I do my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.
If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you avoid the weirdest of the weird ingredients (most of TJ's products have no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no rBST or recombinant bovine growth hormone in dairy products).  So this is a great place to buy your cereal, dairy products, packaged goods, junk food and treats.  They also have very competitive prices on organic produce and dairy products.  Sometimes the organic product is the same price as the equivalent conventional product!

10. I started thinking more about the impact of my eating habits on the earth.
I was already on the road to more natural eating by the time I read Omnivore’s Dilemma.  But mainly because I was worried about the impact of pesticides and artificial hormones on my young children.  Reading OD informed me about the effect of factory farming and industrial agriculture on animal welfare, the quality of our soils, the health of our planet, and the health of present and future generations of humans and animals.  It changed the way I thought about food.

And now the GIVEAWAY!!!  
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual 

Leave a comment below to win your very own copy of Food Rules by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma.  Click HERE for excerpts from the book.  It's used, because I read it, so it may have minor signs of wear, but it is basically new.  I purchased the book myself, so no one gave me anything for free to write this post.  To win a copy of Food Rules, leave a comment below.  Feel free to email others and blog about it, but I am going to allow just one entry per person because I decided it's more fun that way.  In your comment feel free to answer these questions (or not):  
  • How have your eating habits changed over the years? 
  • What has influenced your eating habits? 
Giveaway ends July 26, 2010.  Winner will be randomly selected and announced on Eco-novice's homepage on July 27, 2010.  I will also contact you by email if possible.  Thanks for participating!

This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday.


    1. Oh blasted. More reasons why I should be a farmer and do everything myself. The food industry is seriously messed up. Here's how things have changed for me: Never knew anything about food until college; heard a speaker on campus who was so good, I went Vegan (although I ate occasional sea food at restaurants). FELT amazing. Got married to a meat loving bean hating man and went back to "normal" eating. Then learned about low-glycemic eating and have increased my fruit/veggie intake considerably and almost eliminated all processed food. I'm moving toward organic. Really appreciate the tip on organic thighs vs non organic breasts. This sounds like a book I need to read. Thanks for this great post.

    2. I actually have been gradually changing the way we eat as well. I am still stuck on convience of some stuff, but gradually I hope to improve our eating habits. I am even hoping to get a bread machine soon and put to use some of the yummy sounding recipes you shared! My husband is THRILLED about the idea of fresh bread!

    3. I saw Food Inc and it totally changed the way we eat around here. Local and organic produce, no hormones in our meat, and not eating anything I can't pronounce (on the ingredient list) are our rules. Thanks for this post. I definitely want to read some Pollan.

    4. love your list..we should be friends! our journey sounds similar, but mine started becasue i moved to the country and learned to eat when we grew - meat and veggies. and got so.much.healthier I couldn't deny there was a connection. I would encourage you to check out the story behind soy at westonaprice.org. They're a wealth of info! *Blessings* Lib

    5. Awesome post. I'm on this same journey...just not so far down the road. I read In Defense of Food and it just confirmed what I've been feeling & thinking about food anyway. Thanks for the chance to win this one!

      And thanks for linking to Top Ten {Tuesday}!

    6. I love that you are giving away a copy that you already enjoyed yourself! A fun way to pass it on to someone else. This book is on my list of must reads that I havent gotten to yet. My eating habits started to change with the birth of our daughter last year and realizing I was responsible for someone else's eating habits. Our family's big changes came when we watched Food Inc. and read What to Eat.
      Thanks for the oppotunity to win this book!

    7. I really want to read this book! I keep eyeing it in the store, but haven't bought it. What a great idea to give away what you've already read too. I recently started eating vegetarian 5 days a week. And I shop at Whole Foods, much like TJ's, just generally healthier options.


    8. I would love to win this book! I too think it's awesome that you're giving it away after reading it. I have no problem with that at all. Great way to recycle. I'm SLOWLY changing the way we eat. We went almost all organic all at once and it killed our budget. So now I"m just trying to eat as wholesome and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, hardly anything I buy is organic. I'd love to join a CSA. I'll have to see if there's one around these parts. ( I live in Northern MA) I'm half afraid to read some of these books because I'd like to stay blissfully ignorant! I'm afraid I'll be totally grossed out!

    9. Thanks for the post and for your insight... impressive!

      I've always been a pretty healthy eater but when I got married 4 years ago, I started growing lots of my own fruits and veggies. I can and freeze them for healthy eating all year long.

      My next goal is to start making all my own bread!

    10. I have been super aware of food and where it comes from ever since I was 15 and got my first job in a restaurant, where most of our produce was garnered from local growers. Since then and all through culinary school I have immersed myself in all sorts of food reading, probably starting with "The Jungle" in high school. And most recently the "OD." I would love to read this book as well!

      I have been making the majority of my food since I moved out of my parents house, including bread, granola and sometimes pasta as well (My latest foray is baby food. Any tips are welcome!). Trader Joe's is about the only kind of pre-packaged anything I'll buy. I wish I had discovered all this about you when you were living closer!

    11. Annie, I have a few posts about baby food:



      or you can click the "baby food" label (left sidebar).

    12. Sounds like an interesting book! I can't wait to start a farm and raise our OWN food. So much better. In the meantime, these suggestions are great, especially about the organic chicken thighs.

    13. Michael Pollan is awesome -- In Defense of Food seriously changed my life and how I (and my family) eats. We do most of the things you mentioned in this post, except no Trader Joe's where I live. :( I'm glad I found your blog (via your comment on mine -- I DO care about plastics, so I was excited to hear Ikea doesn't do vinyl. Hooray!).

    14. Oh yes. That book rocked my world! I think it must have hit us much the same way, because I make my own bread, granola, and hummus, and beans all the time. I did a post about cooking dried beans a while ago, actually. My book club read Animal Vegetable Mineral which I liked reading better because of her style, but there was more info in the Michael Pollan books I've read.

    15. Heather, I lament your lack of a TJ. If I drive home to visit family, I am obligated to fill my car with TJ products for the deprived Utahns.

      Jen, We make homemade beans too. Cheap and delicious. But I haven't posted about it yet. I'd like to read Animal Vegetable Mineral as well -- a few friends have recommended it.


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