Food Matters: A Book Review

by Amber on March 28, 2009

When an award-winning chef and avid meat consumer starts telling folks to eat more vegetables it’s a story worth hearing. New York Times bestselling author Mark Bittman’s newest book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating tells this story.

Bittman’s book reads like a diet book, complete with meal plans and suggested recipes. Yet, it is far more than this. It provides critical education about how our food is produced, subsidized, introduced into our schools, and advertised to our children.

Written in quick, readable chapters, Bittman’s book provides thorough evidence of the need for higher vegetable consumption in our diets, and importantly, less animal-based foods. He takes the USDA to task over its inadequate food pyramid, which lists unhealthy sugars, fats, and processed “food” as an actual food group.

The author points out that, in practice, the USDA does not support its own recommendations to consume fruits and vegetables. In fact, Bittman says, our country does not grow enough produce for every American to meet the USDA’s recommended daily allowance. Instead, he writes, “agricultural subsidies cost taxpayers $19 billion a year and benefit only 3100 farmers”—most of them producing meat and dairy.

But don’t worry: we haven’t reached a tipping point in vegetable consumption. Meat still reigns supreme. And this, Bittman points out, is part of a larger global problem affecting our environment, the obesity epidemic, and the overall health of Americans. He asks us to curb meat consumption and increase our intake of fresh fruits and veggies. After all, there are still plenty available for your diet.

The crux of Bittman’s sometimes-vegetarian diet plan is simple: eat only plant-based foods such as grains, vegetables and fruits for breakfast and lunch, and then lavish yourself at dinnertime with anything from a steak to pizza and even ice cream for dessert. By cutting back on the amount of animal products we consume, and increasingly eating more plant-based foods, Bittman believes that both our planet and our bodies will benefit.

Half this book is devoted to recipes, almost all of which are strictly vegetarian. Yet meat is not completely eliminated from the repertoire: he sprinkles pro-meat recipes throughout. His menu ranges from sweet to savory, including ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts.

Even if you love bacon and can’t imagine life without it, this book will fit into your diet. If you already consume a hefty helping of veggies on a regular basis, this book will inspire new twists. It’s a quick read packed with hearty amounts of well-researched nutritional information and recipes that meet the current demands of our planet and our bodies.

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