Cut calories, fat and help curb obesity: Michael Pollan’s solution

by Cara Rosenbloom, RD

At 5:30 pm, I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner for my family. I used to think of prepping dinner as part of my job as a parent. But after listening to journalist Michael Pollan speak at a recent Toronto event to support Cooked (The Penguin Press, 2013), I now see cooking dinner makes me part of the solution. The problem? North Americans rely heavily on processed foods, and don’t cook enough homemade meals.

What’s causing the rise of obesity?
Pollan believes the decline in home cooking is the reason for the rise of obesity in North America. We eat too much processed food, which fills us with excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates, salt and trans fat. In addition, processed foods are linked to cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Pollan’s research traces the decline in home cooking back to the 1960s, when more women entered the work force and spent less time preparing meals. But he doesn’t blame the problem on women. He blames the food industry’s marketing executives, who saw this change as an opportunity to offer convenience to busy working moms and exploit feminism in their favour.

Without knowing the future detriment to our collective health, North Americans embraced processed foods.

Prepare your own food to cut calories and fat
Pollan says the most telling thing about a healthy diet is who does the cooking: you or a corporation? He argues that if we prepare our own food, we’ll consume fewer calories, less fat and more fibre. He believes cooking can help improve health, make the food system more sustainable and help us connect with family members.

Pollan encourages us to rebuild a culture of cooking, and says all family members — men, women and children — should be involved in preparing family meals. Cooking is a critical life skill and children should not leave home without knowing how to cook.

And I agree. When I’m in my kitchen at 5:30, my six-year-old daughter is beside me peeling carrots while my two-year-old son rips lettuce. They are part of the solution too.

“Eat anything you want, as long as you cook it yourself” – Michael Pollan

Here are five quick and easy dinners to make with your family.

(Promotional image on home page: Photography by Alia Malley, courtesy Michael Pollan)

Today’s Living Well post is a guest post by Registered Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom. Find out more about her at