Healthy Epicurean

“Eat Only What You Like!” A Q&A with Marion Nestle Ph.D and Best Selling Author

Best Selling Author “Marion Nestle”


Welcome to the 2013 Healthy Epicurean Q&A series with World Wise Beauty. Our first Q&A is with Marion Nestle, Ph.D and best selling author of numerous highly respected books on food and nutrition.

Marion also has an excellent blog called Food Politics which is a great place to learn how to become a savvy food consumer as well as a healthy epicurean!  You can also follow her on Twitter @marionnestle


Welcome Marion: I am so pleased you could drop in for my “Healthy Epicurean” series here at World Wise Beauty.  I chose the name of the series because so often I think people think eating healthy is not pleasurable.  I recently interviewed a prominent Professor of Psychology (next Q&A for this series) who conducts comparative research on various cultures and their relationship with food and pleasure.  He found through his research that as Americans we believe “more is better” and we also tend to eat out of convenience rather than a social pleasurable experience.  Most of what he observes I agree with but what I would like to unpack with you is how we developed this attitude “more is better”.   I would say as a consumeristic society we do depend on the “more is better” value system to keep the economy churning.  You wrote a great magazine article for a trade magazine entitled ” How the Food Industry Hijacked Nutrition”.  Let’s start with this provocative premise…

Lauroly Q: Do you think we have been bamboozled by our food industry?

Marion Nestle: I wouldn’t use bamboozled. The food industry is just doing what it is obliged to do: everything it can to sell more products. Unfortunately, this means big advertising budgets, health claims on food packages, and marketing directly to children. It also means deflecting attention from all that by engaging in partnerships and alliances, focusing on physical activity and personal responsibility as causes of poor eating, and working behind the scenes to lobby legislators not to do anything that might harm sales. That’s really what it’s about.

 Lauroly Q:  Money and politics sure are clashing these days.  This was never so evident when Mayor Bloomberg of NYC mandated a law on portion size for sugary drinks.  There was so much backlash from the soda industry and from libertarians who believe “we should all live and let live”.  I heard this from all kinds of people I know, “If they are stupid enough to drink too much, well that’s their problem!” Same reaction happened with cigarette smoking regulations over thirty years ago.  But when it comes to children and teens I don’t think mature choices are quite developed yet.  How did we all buy into “it’s ok to market massive amounts of sugary drinks to kids” when we know research tell us it’s bad for their health?

Marion Nestle: I attribute it to skilled food industry marketing. Food isn’t cigarettes. Food is multiple products and a much more complicated message than don’t smoke. It’s eat this instead of that, use moderation, or eat less, messages that are easy to interpret in very different ways. Until our campaign laws are changed to prevent corporate cash donations, legislators will necessarily have to pay attention to corporate health rather than kids’ health. Election campaign contributions are the root of evil in American society but legislators benefit from them so are unlikely to anything to change them.

Lauroly Q: When I was a kid I would go horseback riding with my Dad and after a day of exercise we would stop at my Aunt & Uncle’s house for a short visit.  They would serve me a small juice size glass of coke and one Hersey kiss candy. I was in heaven and it was a total treat because I wasn’t served soda at home.  Later as a teen in high school I was drinking a can of soda with lunch every day! I had soda not because my mother packed it for me but because I could buy it in the cafeteria. It became a normal thing to have with lunch.  Today one soda a day would be considered moderate as many people drink more and the portion sizes have increased.

Your new book with Malden Nesheim “Why Calories Count–From Science to Politics really helps us to understand why calories count whether it to be too much or too little.  I admit I was initially scared by your title because so many women and girls have become overly obsessed with calories the last twenty years. What are you attempting to teach us with this new book?


Marion Nestle: We most certainly do not advise counting calories (too inaccurate to be worth the trouble). The main take home message is that if you are concerned about weight, you absolutely must find a way to cope with today’s “eat more” food marketing environment. The entire purpose of that environment is to get you to eat more, not less. One other take home message: larger portions have more calories. I know it sounds like duh, but I don’t think you need any other explanation for the increased prevalence of obesity in our society. People are eating more, and so much more that we’ve forgotten what reasonable portions look like. The best advice I can give anyone trying to lose weight is to just eat smaller portions. It works every time.

Lauroly Q: How do we enjoy eating when we are learning so much of our food may not be good for us or may even harm us?

Marion Nestle: I’m inclined to answer this as “Don’t worry. Be happy.” A healthy diet simply means eating plenty of vegetables, not eating too much junk food, and not eating too much in general. Eat what you like, be sure to eat vegetables at every possible occasion, and if you have a weight problem (and who does not?) eat smaller portions. This leaves loads of room for enjoying eating, which should always be a pleasure. Maybe follow this rule too: eat only what you like.

 Lauroly: Thank you so much for sharing your wise and enlightening thoughts with us Marion.  For a country so obsessed with food and diet you would think we would teach nutrition in school?  Instead of wood shop maybe we can have a nutrition elective in high school?  Or maybe you can start an on-line nutrition school? This is the bright and wonderful side of our American society–we are always coming with ideas!


Marion Nestle: I’m so in favor of schools as a starting place for dietary change. I admire Michelle Obama for picking school meals as a focus for change. You as a parent can go into a school and make a huge difference in what kids eat. Teach kids where food comes from and how to grow, prepare, and cook it, and they will have a healthy relationship with food forever. How’s that for a good idea!

Great ideas and grounded wisdom from Marion Nestle we all can appreciate! How about all of you? What makes you a healthy epicurean?  I add cinnamon to my oatmeal and ginger soy glaze to my salmon!  Flava is what makes eating pleasurable!  Share your yummy recipes and thoughts on being a healthy epicurean. I would love to hear from you!

Truly Herself,

One thought on ““Eat Only What You Like!” A Q&A with Marion Nestle Ph.D and Best Selling Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *