How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered by Mark Bittman & David Katz

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The title for this book claims it will answer all questions ever asked about food and diets.

And, by God, do they deliver. And then some.

It’s never specified who actually asked the questions used in the book – if Bittman and Katz just came up with them themselves, or they actually spoke with people – but, one thing’s for sure (and prepare for the main negative point):

It’s never specified who actually asked the questions used in the book – if Bittman and Katz just came up with them themselves, or they actually spoke with people – but, one thing’s for sure (and prepare for the first negative point):

  • They asked the wrong questions.

Almost half the book was filled with repetitive answers because all the questions were literally the same, with each new section that showed up. So, they’d start with sugar, for example, and then move onto fats, and proteins, and for each subheading, this made-up interviewer would ask the same exact question, and our authors would go on the same spiel.

Over

and over

and over again.

It got insanely tiresome not even halfway through the book.

So my main advice:

* Don’t pick questions that make you repeat yourselves fifteen times *

The objective of the book, I believe, is to answer all diet and food related questions, and I understand this. For the most part, they did a good job. I have at least fifty quotes that I highlighted and will refer to often to ensure I’m making the right choices. However, a lot of it was common sense. I skimmed a fair bit because I already knew a lot of it.

Which makes me wonder who this book is targeted toward.

Because the people who would pick it up would be those who are interested in eating right, people who’ve obsessed with diets at one point or another, people who’ve already done their research – at least a little of it, anyway.

But this book is written and laid out as if its readers are those who’ve never even thought about dieting, or eating right, at any point in their lives. It is that comprehensive.

That’s a good thing, of course. The point of the book is to tell you all about what’s actually good for you, and what’s just a fad that you shouldn’t pay attention to. And it did deliver on that front, for sure. I learned a lot, and I taught my family everything I learnt, which led to some interesting discussions.

We were mostly feeling smug about the fact that Bittman and Katz basically said the Mediterranean diet is the best – aka, our diet. No big deal *brushes collar*

But I was very interested to read the claim that 90% of people with Asian roots are lactose intolerant. hahaha ha ha what? But I love cheese…

Anyway, I digress – as I say, I did learn a lot. Though the gist of the book can be summed up in this one quote, which is very early on in the book:

Diets of the world’s longest-lived people are rich in veggies, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and good fats like olive oil or fat from fish. They de-emphasise meat and dairy and exclude ultraprocessed foods and dairy.

And that was repeated in varying ways for almost 200 pages. Can’t say I didn’t already know that before I opened this book.

However, there were things that surprised me. How did this book surprise me? Let me count the ways…

  1. “the most efficient way to access the energy of sunlight is to eat the plants that captured it, rather than the animals that ate the plants.” (see, that’s common sense but I’d never thought of it this way)
  2. “humans are actually quite well adapted to periods of fasting.” (I mean, I already knew that, what with Ramadan, but it was interesting to hear cavemen fasted for most of the day)
  3. “with a real Paleo diet, even if we used every inch of land – and found food there – only 6.7 percent (of the world) would avoid starvation.” (the discussion about the Paleo diet was actually really interesting … I’m about to send this to Paleo Pete Evans‘…)
  4. “about 80% of the salt in our diet is processed into foods, not shaken on by us.” (basically, don’t remove salt from your house, just stop eating processed crap)
  5. “the ketogenic diet is high in fat and protein and low in carbs; eliminates fruit, grains, and beans, and many vegetables; and is high in meat and low in plant foods. That makes it the opposite of what we know constitutes a healthy diet.” (honestly, I kinda loved how this book shut down all the fad diets)
  6. apparently, breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day – that’s just a myth that was created so kids wouldn’t go to school hungry; in reality, you don’t have to eat at all in the morning, if you’re not hungry – nothing will happen; the food gods won’t smite you and your day won’t be ruined. ALSO you can have leftover dinner for breakfast. #gamechanger
  7. “in the 1970s, the typical supermarket in the US had an inventory of about 15,000 products. In 2018, the typical supermarket in the US had an inventory of about 50,000.” (holy heck)
  8. “most juicing, especially that done commercially, strips away the fibre and many of the beneficial nutrients in produce.” (this didn’t surprise me, but it made me sad because Boost juice is delicious…)
  9. beans are the healthiest, most beneficial, most amazing protein, better than all the rest. (guess I’m going to eat burritos forever)
  10. also, a funny note – people say you need meat to become big and strong but some of the world’s biggest animals are herbivores (horses, elephants, gorillas, giraffes)
  11. coconut oil isn’t actually the best oil … what? olive oil for the win!

So, clearly I learned a fair bit. It wasn’t a terrible read. It was a good reminder, most of the time – when it was speaking about what we should actually be eating. It’s very no-nonsense and doesn’t allow for excuses – you know, those excuses that people make not to eat healthy and exercise.

Bittman and Katz are basically trying to tell us all eat your vegetables, stop the junk food, and exercise sometimes.

They do make a good point when they say:

It’s a privilege to be able to experiment with different diets.

That’s absolutely true. We’re lucky to be able to choose what we want to eat, to have all this choice. At one point the ‘interviewer’ asks about protein deficiency, and they say that it’s basically impossible for people in America and countries like it to be protein deficient – because we have so much to eat.

Overall, it was an interesting read – and there were important things discussed, like eating local and organic, and our carbon footprints – but it got super bogged down because they literally rehashed the exact same answer at least fifteen times. Maybe more. I also skimmed the last section, so I can’t say much about it. Perhaps it would’ve been better as a physical book, so it’d be easier to rifle through and pick different sections to read as they applied to me. But, with the ebook, I read it straight through, from beginning to end with some skimming, which might’ve tainted the experience.

But I’d still recommend you pick it up, if you’re interested. There are some surprising facts and bits of info that I wasn’t privy to before. It’s very thorough, very comprehensive, and very well-written.

It just needed a bit more forethought.

What do you think: will you pick this book up? Are you interested at all about eating right?

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