Talking Foods and Food Choices with Mark Bittman

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Season 1, Episode 24 Guest: Mark Bittman

In today’s podcast episode, Kathleen Zelman and Tom Rifai talk all about foods and food choices with Mark Bittman, a leading voice in global food culture and policy for more than three decades.

They discuss how to become more aware of where food comes from; choose foods intelligently; pay attention to nutritional principles; snack judiciously on a plant forward diet plan and eat less ultra-processed food.

Say his name and most people recognize this award winning power house, chef extraordinaire, bestselling author of more than 20 books, teacher, lecturer and champion of culinary simplicity, healthy and socially responsible, guilt free pleasure and common sense advice. He has been writing about food and food policy for more than 25 years, has his own podcast and is a regular on all forms of media.

If you follow the New York Times food section, you know Mark’s column – he started his journey at NYT in 1984 and stayed for 30 years, creating delicious recipes, writing cookbooks and opinion pieces. About 20 years ago he became focused on a way to eat that is good for the environment, good for us and delicious. That journey continues today and in fact, his latest book How to Eat: All Your Food and Diet Questions Answered, is co-authored with Dr. David L. Katz, founder of the True Health Initiative.

Key Messages from Our Discussion about Foods and Food Choices with Mark Bittman:

Plant forward diet plans are best for health and the environment.

The more control you have over your diet, the better off you will be. Set up your personal rules, make a plan and get back into the kitchen.

Vegan diets are not the holy grail, what’s more important is to eat more minimally processed plants. It is not an ideal.

60% of calories produced in U.S. are in the form of ultra-processed foods. This is compared to only about 5% in Blue Zones and the Bolivian Tsimané, who also have the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

Take care of yourself and enjoy the foods you love (no austeriy required) – but in moderation. Use the “5% fun zone” principal and enjoy 5% fun foods in your diet.

Try to use everything in the kitchen to reduce food waste. You can begin by not over-buying (especially perishable) food in the first place.

When you use the spices, sauces and other taste enhancers in your kitchen, be aware of the ingredients and careful when you add them to your foods.

Mark Bittman headshot

Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman has been a leading voice in global food culture and policy for more than three decades. He has written more than 20 books, including the How to Cook Everything series, Food Matters, and two books in 2021: Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal, which The New York Times called “epic and engrossing”; and Bittman Bread: No-Knead Whole Grain Baking for Every Day, with Kerri Conan.

Bittman spent three decades at the Times, where he created “The Minimalist,” had a five-year stint as the Sunday Magazine’s lead food writer, and became the country’s first weekly opinion writer at a major publication to concentrate on food.

He continues to produce books in the How to Cook Everything series, the general cooking bible for a quarter-century, and has hosted or been featured in four television series, including the Emmy-winning Showtime series about climate change “Years of Living Dangerously” and “Spain … On the Road Again,” with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Bittman was a regular on the Today show from 2005 to 2010 (and still appears occasionally) and has been a guest on countless television and radio programs including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Fresh Air,” and “Morning Edition”; his 2007 Ted Talk, “What’s wrong with what we eat,” has been viewed five million times. He is a fellow at Yale and is on the faculty of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. He has received six James Beard Awards, four IACP Awards, and numerous other honors. Bittman is also the editor-in-chief of The Bittman Project, a newsletter and website focusing on all aspects of food, from political to delicious; he also hosts the podcast, “Food.”

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