"Eat This, Not That" Food Logic

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The uber-popular book, “Eat This, Not That” co-authored by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding currently has nine different editions, each one a bestseller. In addition to that, they have more recently published a children’s version and also added downloadable apps to their cause. In a time when far too many people try to over-complicate everything from resumes to relationships, matters of fitness and health are no different.

The theory and logic of this book highlights not only how nutrition and health are complicated, but also how they can be dangerously over-simplified at the same time. It can be difficult to surmise where the logic ends and where the absurdity begins.

Getting Down to Basics
At its premise, the logic in ‘Eat This, Not That’ isn’t complicated. It is knowledge we all have readily available and it is sans excuse. If person A is presented with two plates and asked to make a health conscious choice on a moment’s notice, that is easily done. Plate one may consist of a greasy hamburger while plate two offers a grilled piece of salmon. Logic should tell person A that if they consume the hamburger, they will be consuming a higher calorie, more fatty meal and thus are at risk of packing on some pounds, not to mention compromising their health in other ways.

Logic should tell them also that by choosing plate two with the grilled salmon, they will be consuming fewer calories, essential good fats and overall, are making the better choice. Unfortunately, knowledge and logic isn’t the only thing that influences the decisions we make when it comes to food. Busy schedules, convenience and sheer love of fatty foods always come into play.

Having choice is the premise of this book (and for some their way of life) but in many ways, the logic fails because the book and its authors assume that we, the general public always have black and white choices, when in fact, it isn’t that clear cut. In the case above, the choice may be clear and logical but most times, the decisions to be made are much greyer than what the book proposes.

Here are the main points within this theory and how they may or may not be applicable on a daily basis:

  • When dining out there are always healthy choices and non-healthy. Simple choose the healthier of the options
  • Scour the menu selections and simply choose grilled instead of fried; hold the sauces; pass on the bread
  • Share an entrée with someone else or ask that half your entrée be bagged for lunch or dinner the next day

The entire theory is based on the fact that no matter which restaurant one goes to, there are healthy choices and not so healthy choices. While this is accurate to a point, it doesn’t ensure that people will make the right decision and furthermore, many critics have slammed the book for its numerous fallacies; the biggest contention nutritionists have with the logic is that overall it promotes a false sense of being healthy. In most cases, this theory simply exchanges one food choice for another, but really both food choices involve foods that are processed—and we know processed foods are not overly healthy to begin with.

And while the theory does bring about some good points (and logical at times) it neglects to address the real issue at hand, which is to promote to those who follow this logic to take ingredients into consideration. 

Healthy Just Became a Little Less Healthy
Some of the choices and examples offered really come down to ‘lesser evils’ rather than helping people to make healthy choices. A prime example of this is comparing Fiber One cereal to another type such as Cocoa Puffs. The logic is that the Fiber One contains more essential vitamins and nutrients, but neglects to tell people that it also contains an absurd amount of sugar (from the corn oil that has been genetically modified) and a large amount of aspartame which has been linked with weight gain (not loss) and several forms of cancer.

On a very basic level, yes the Fiber One may offer fewer calories and a smidgeon of vitamins when compared to Cocoa Puffs, but neither is necessarily a great choice if we take ‘healthy’ at face value. A healthier option would be to eat a bowl of natural oats with some fresh fruit but the logic of “Eat This, Not That” doesn’t make comparisons as such.

The entire logic rests in the general public looking at any two foods and choosing the one with less fat, less sugar and maybe less salt but there are no guarantees that the choice between the two is essentially healthier. After all, one of their comparisons actually advises to choose the Burger King Whopper over something else, leaving readers to question when the Whopper became a healthy option at all?

Where The Logic is Magical
Here is what is logical about this theory and way of life: surely if we continue to make good food choices we will be healthier and certainly if we choose fruit over sugar laden foods, our health will benefit. But we have to want to make those healthy choices and have the discipline to do so.

Simple choices like drinking a glass of water in place of a can of soda will reward us healthy benefits just as choosing a low calorie dressing such as oil and vinegar over a fat ridden Ranch dressing will. We don’t need a book to tell us that cutting down on trans fats and replacing those choices with natural, unprocessed foods is the right path to follow.

The logic is easy and we apply it every day to everything we do. Actions have consequences and this is true with our food selections. If you don’t study, you can’t pass the test; if you don’t substitute an occasional burger for a vitamin filled salad, you will be less healthy. It’s not complicated, it’s common sense.