Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes

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From the award-winning champion of culinary simplicity who gave us the bestselling How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian comes Food Matters, a plan for responsible eating that's as good for the planet as it is for your weight and your health.

We are finally starting to acknowledge the threat carbon emissions pose to our ozone layer, but few people have focused on the extent to which our consumption of meat contributes to global warming. Think about it this way: In terms of energy consumption, serving a typical family-of-four steak dinner is the rough equivalent of driving around in an SUV for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home.

Bittman offers a no-nonsense rundown on how government policy, big business marketing, and global economics influence what we choose to put on the table each evening. He demystifies buzzwords like "organic," "sustainable," and "local" and offers straightforward, budget-conscious advice that will help you make small changes that will shrink your carbon footprint -- and your waistline.

Flexible, simple, and non-doctrinaire, the plan is based on hard science but gives you plenty of leeway to tailor your food choices to your lifestyle, schedule, and level of commitment. Bittman, a food writer who loves to eat and eats out frequently, lost thirty-five pounds and saw marked improvement in his blood levels by simply cutting meat and processed foods out of two of his three daily meals. But the simple truth, as he points out, is that as long as you eat more vegetables and whole grains, the result will be better health for you and for the world in which we live.

Unlike most things that are virtuous and healthful, Bittman's plan doesn't involve sacrifice. From Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing to Breakfast Bread Pudding, the recipes in Food Matters are flavorful and sophisticated. A month's worth of meal plans shows you how Bittman chooses to eat and offers proof of how satisfying a mindful and responsible diet can be. Cheaper, healthier, and socially sound, Food Matters represents the future of American eating.

Customer Reviews:

  • Bittman's best book yet!
    I have heard of Mrk Bittman before, both from his How to Cook Everything books and from his no-kneading bread recipe that has been popularized on the Internet. When I heard of this book, subtitled, "A Guide to Conscious Eating" I was intrigued. Knowing his interest in food and cooking I figured this would be a good book, respectful of foods and flavors, with good recipes.

    The first part of the book discussed the environmental cost of eating meats and highly-processed foods. Did you know the average steak dinner for a family of four is roughly the equivalent of driving around for 3 hours in a SUV while leaving all the lights on at home? I didn't know that.

    He has a table listing the top foods contributing calories to the US population. The first item, at 7%, is soft drinks and the second is sweets like cake, at 3.6%. Fruits and vegetables (other than potato chips) don't even make the top five. Number 6 is rice, seven rolls, eight cheese, nine is beer and 10 is french fries and other fried potatoes. That is really scary, IMHO.

    In the next section he talks about farming in 1900, when 41% of Americans were in employed in agricultural vs. how agriculture is now. Today the main crops are corn and soybean and they are used to feed to animals. Others are wheat rice and corn. America doesn't even grow enough other fruits and vegetables for everyone to eat the government's recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables anymore.

    He also talks about the cruelty in the way animals are raised and discusses a move to more humane husbandry. As it is 70% of farmland is devoted to animals, either directly or for feed, increasing the land enough to raise animals humanely would mean destroying almost all existing forests and farmland.

    He talks more about the food pyramid, so-called healthy ingredients and suchlike. I'm sure you've heard about that before. I found the next section most interesting.

    He talks about the health costs of the American diet and how his eating has caused weight gain, pre-diabetes and sleep apnea for him and what he has done for himself to lose weight, lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Simply put he eats fruits, vegetables and whole grains during the day and confines meats and items like white bread to dinner. He tries to eat good quality ingredients and eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

    It is an interesting way to eat and it has been very successful for him. Most of his health problems have disappeared.

    The last section of the book has recipes, including Tabbouleh, Caesar Salad, Layered Salad, Carrot Soup, Lentil Soup, Fried Rice, Stir Fries, Paella, Pilaf, Chili, and Cassoulet.

    It is an interesting book and a way of eating that seems logical and practical. I've already begun to implement this way of eating into my life....more info
  • A Food Writer and Cookbook Author Describes How to Eat Healthier and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
    Food Matters is a lightweight (pun intended) look at how your eating choices affect the environment, your health, and your weight. Mark Bittman provides familiar arguments in favor of enjoying food choices that don't use as many resources that are also good for you to eat. To underscore the point, he describes how he lost weight by changing to more environmentally friendly choices (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and relatively little eggs, dairy, fish, chicken, and beef). The book ends with some recipes to help you switch from animal-protein-centered dishes to ones that either have little protein or none. He also teaches you how to prepare and keep masses of vegetable- and fruit-based ingredients ready to go for tasty eating.

    As far as this book goes, it's well done . . . but it's just not enough for many people to buy and use the book. Here are some examples of problems with the book:

    1. He argues that you shouldn't buy out-of-season fruits and vegetables from halfway around the world because of all energy expended. In many developing countries, out-of-season fruits and vegetables are the way that poor farmers are trying to get out of poverty and use less environmentally damaging methods. Mr. Bittman doesn't differentiate between who is producing the out-of-season fruits and vegetables and how they are produced. In some cases at least, doing the opposite of his advice can be an environmentally friendly decision.

    2. He focuses on food-related ways to reduce the carbon footprint without considering how you cook and store the food and that impact on carbon footprint.

    3. He talks about the wonders of various fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain alternatives without usually giving you the details about what each one offers in the way of nutrition and digestion characteristics, depending on how they are prepared.

    4. He expounds upon all of the problems of feed-lot produced beef, likes the idea of grass-fed beef, but never tells you in detail the benefits of grass-fed cattle.

    5. The list of recipes is a good one, but it's hardly enough to provide all of your eating needs. Why not provide a full cookbook to support his concept?

    6. I went to the store to check out those dastardly food manufacturers to see if they were in fact pulling all of the tricks that he described. Some were and some weren't. It made me realize that I need to develop a list of items that I've researched and why I chose them so that I can then compare them to new offerings when those are provided.

    7. When all was said and done, I was struck that what he was telling me to do was pretty similar to what I do already. So what did I gain from the book that I didn't know already? Mainly that seltzer bottles use a lot of energy in their production. I'll skip seltzer in the future and go back to tap water exclusively. If I had bought a vegetarian cookbook, I think I would have been better off.

    ...more info
  • A Cure for the Omnivore's Diilemma
    Another Bittman gem, this one has fewer recipes and more text than his How to Cook Everything books, but it still provides a huge amount of inspiration for anyone wanting to improve the foods they prepare. As usual, his method is generally informal, and the preparations are quick and can be relatively inexpensive.

    This is not a strictly vegetarian book, but his premise is that our food should come less and less from animal sources for the sake of the planet, and the recipe selection reflects this. An interesting addition is a twelve-page bibliography that includes not just cookbooks but also texts discussing global ecology and sound nutrition.

    And where else will you find a 21st century cookbook that includes a recipe for porridge, with suggestions for add-ons that range from the expected cinnamon, other spices, and honey to more startling salsa, hard boiled eggs or soy sauce!

    While there may not be a lot new for those already familiar with Bittman's other books, this would be a good place for those still caught up in meat-heavy, highly processed food diets to begin cooking and eating in a way that will improve both their own health and that of the planet....more info
  • Good for the Planet and Good for US
    "Food Matters" is worthy of the highest praise I could give a cookbook.
    After receiving several very good cookbooks at Christmas, and hearing Mark on NPR, I hesitated to invest in yet another book. What made the difference for me, is his blend of information, education and humor. This is not another cookbook at all. No preaching here, the facts, insights with the light touch and great recipes. He spares us the guilt trip. I have now ordered another 4 copies for friends. My sister, Chair of the Board for the Humane Society of the US, is considering inviting Mr. Bittman to be a guest speaker. I say perfect choice.
    Be aware, make the best choices for the planet which ultimately, means the best for you. THREE THUMBS UP!...more info
  • Disappointment
    I enjoy Mark Bittmans "How to Cook Everything" books as well as his newspaper columns,but I was very disappointed with this effort. The book is being sold as a "guide to conscious eating" and I was expecting something similar the the Michael Pollan book, In Defense of Food, but no this is a DIET BOOK and a pretty uninspiring one at that....more info
  • Great Recipes and More
    Mark Bittman is author of : How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. His latest book: Food Matters, outlines a plan for responsible eating that's good for you and for the planet.

    I thought this book was pretty interesting. Although a lot of the information was not new to me, I found it interesting the way Mark Bittman tries to demonstrate that by being more aware of the foods we are buying and eating is not only better for us, but better for the environment as well.

    The typical American diet, has way too much meat, refined carbohydrates, and junk food, leading to both health problems such as : heart disease, obesity, diabetes. As a solution, the author argues for changing the way we eat and buy food. Specifically, he wants us to eat less meat and junk food and more vegetables and whole grains.

    America's high meat consumption, in terms of the energy required to raise livestock and ship meat all over the country, contributes to global warming. For example, in terms of energy consumption, serving a typical family of four steak dinner is the rough equivalent of driving around in an SUV for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home.

    Simple put, by making some of the diet changes outlined in the book, such as eating more fruits, veggies and whole grains, we will not only shrink our waistline, but also help the environment as well. The author mentioned that when he made these changes to his diet (reducing his meat intake by 70%), he also lost 35 lbs.

    The book included about 75 recipes, many of which looked great. In addition there were sample menus and tips for stocking your kitchen with new healthy foods.

    If you are looking for a good book on healthy eating, give this one a try....more info
  • Lackluster
    I love Bittman. Unfortunately, this was not his best work. Much of Bittman's essay on food, the environment, and health has already been said by others (e.g., Michael Pollan). Even more disappointing, though, was the lack of groundbreaking recipes (save a precious few). I dog-earned just as many recipes in Food Matters (approximately ten) as I usually do in my monthly Martha Stewart Everyday Food (again, approximately ten)--and one month of Everyday Food costs a LOT less....more info
  • Another entry on Mark Bittman's resume
    The inside cover summarizes the focus of this volume: "From the award-winning champion of culinary simplicity. . .comes 'Food Matters,' a plan for responsible eating that's as good for the planet as it is for your weight and your health." One small example of healthy eating-- On page 6, Bittman compares the nutrients in a Snicker's bar with dry-roasted peanuts. Not much of a comparison, in a sense. We all know that the candy bar has way more calories, sugar, fat, and sodium and fewer good nutrients. Other charts testify to dietary matters, as well.

    The author notes that eating a lot of meat is a drain on resources (it takes a lot of food to raise meat for eating; it takes a lot of land and is--in general--a drain on the planet). In addition, junk food is a problem. He notes that about 1/3 of Americans' caloric intake comes from junk food; 7% of our calories per day comes from soda/pop/soft drinks. His basic thesis is stated boldly (Page 19): "To reduce our impact on the environment, we should depend on foods that require little or no processing, packaging, or transportation, and those that efficiently convert the energy required to raise them into nutritional calories to sustain human beings. . .[T]hat means we should be increasing our reliance on whole foods, mostly plants." The rest of Part I of the book discusses these and other issues in much more detail.

    Part II of the book presents a variety of recipes, with specific emphasis on breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks/appetizers, and desserts.

    He also provides recipes for the "basics" of cooking, such as salsa, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock. Breakfasts recipes? He provides a description of how to make porridge (ingredients include salt, grain, butter, salt and/or milk or cream. Or a vegetarian breakfast burrito, featuring beans, rice or potatoes, flour tortillas, some greens, and salsa (or chopped tomatoes). Simple to make--and both tasty and nutritious, I might add!

    Lunch? One example is lunchtime Caesar salad (he includes a variation using either chicken or shrimp). Another? Stir-fried beans with either asparagus or broccoli. Dinner recipes feature such concoctions as stir-fried vegetables with shellfish or meat, roasted veggies with (or without) fish, paella (with chicken).

    As with his other cookbooks (at least the ones that I have), recipes are not fancy. They are pretty straightforward, fairly simple, and nutritious. You get what you would expect, in other words.

    The book is of interest for two separate reasons--one, the argument that how we eat has broader consequences for the environment; two, provision of some recipes that are consistent with his thesis. Even if the reader is not convinced of the first point, there are still some nice recipes here to be made.
    ...more info
  • Even "greenies" like to eat...
    Using "How to cook Everything" on a fequent basis in my kitchen, I am familiar with Bittman and his writing style. I like the recipes that he come up with and the way in which he can explain some esotheric concepts so that they make sense to laypeople.

    This book serves up more of the same style, some great recipes (75 if you are counting) and a nice commentary on the way that we as Americans and other developing countries are consuming the food resources that we say we so desperatly "need."

    By taking the concepts that are usually way out in the stratosphere, he explains them in a way they make sense, and with a frankness that will make them stick. I look at food differently now, and try to think about the total cost of things involved, not just the monetary value placed on a juicy Big Mac.

    While not calling people to vegan and raw lifestyles, Bittman does a good job of showing us how to eat more consciously and how the impact of our eating can and does effect the ecosystem, infrastructure, and health of the places where it is raised.

    I usually detest the whiny "fact" filled books on global warming, human overpopulation, and rants about how humans are killing everything we touch. While this book encourages us to take a "big-picture" view of the world and how it applies to us, it does so in a way that is easy to digest and not at all preachy. A nice book to have around if you are a fan of Bittman, and a good one to read as well if you arent.

    Filled with practical examples and an easy to follow narrative, "Food Matters" is an essential new way to look at food, how it is produced, and its overall impact on the Earth today. Eye-opening and satisfying all at the same time....more info
  • I want to spread the word
    I would love to share this book with more of my friends. Is it available in Spanish?...more info
  • An Appealing Approach to Sane Eating Without Sacrificing Pleasure

    Mark Bittman's Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating is a guidebook for the typical American eating the typical American diet--heavy laden with meat, animal products, and processed foods. This typical American diet, Bittman points out, is calorie-dense, harmful to the atmosphere, taxing on global resources, and unhealthy. Bittman easily mixes scientific research with his own personal account of needing to lose weight due to high cholesterol and sleep apnea and shows that shifting his diet by emphasizing vegetables, legumes, and beans over meats and processed food helped him reach his weight and health goals without resorting to rigid dieting and calorie-counting. Let me make it clear here that Bittman is not advocating vegetarianism. He allows himself a little meat during his dinner meal and incorporates some meat in the recipe section of his book.

    A food journalist and cook book writer (his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has been praised by icon Mario Batali) divides his book into two sections. The first section, Food Matters, lays down the reasons we need to shift from meat and processed foods to vegetables, fresh produce, legumes and beans. If you've already read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food, this information won't be new to you. But it is a good recap of the incremental way the typical American diet has become unhealthy, burdensome to the environment, and "insane."

    I think one area Bittman differs from Pollan is that I see an undercurrent of horror and disgust Bittman feels for the way animals are treated in the farming industry. While not embracing vegetarianism, Bittman wants to lower the demand of animal products (sadly, he shows world statistics that show that developing countries are actually demanding MORE meat than ever).

    The second section of Bittman's book, the recipe section, is excellent, not just for the 75 recipes and suggested menus, but for the basic foods he says you should always keep stocked in your kitchen and the secrets for adding bold flavors to your meals.

    Bittman's call for sane eating has much in common with the aforementioned Michael Pollan and readers with an interest in intelligent, healthy eating without sacrificing pleasure will want to read Mark Bittman's Food Matters, Michael Pollan's food books, and Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating. ...more info
  • Some things are missing ....
    I was excited about this book after hearing Mark on a radio show only to feel dissappointed by his lack luster approach to food options. He essentially says eat whatever whenever just makes sure its plant based. Well that information is helpful if you have a good base of knowledge about fruits and veggies and how to cook/ use them but saying pick up some barley you'll love it is really not helpful....more info
  • Nothing New Here
    I've been a fan of Bittman's for a few years, reading his Times column and using his How to Cook Everything cookbook on a regular basis. So, I was pretty disappointed to read his new book, Food Matters, and find that there wasn't any new information included, except for his personal weight loss experience (which was a bit lightweight, if you pardon the pun).

    The recipes are a bit of a let down as well, so let me say from the start, save your money and buy one of his cookbooks instead. If you are a reasonably well-informed eater, especially someone of the vegetarian or vegan variety, this book is a waste of time for you. However, if you are a big beef eater, you'll probably learn a lot.

    I found that his criticisms of the meat industry could have well been backed up by the same of the poultry industry, but he steered quite clear of that.

    Overall, the book was very repetitive. Bittman found endless ways to rephrase his point about eating less meat. While he did give a month's worth of meals, he didn't help with the calorie count. It was highly disappointing. It seemed to have been written and edited in a hurry, and just doesn't seem typical of Bittman's work.

    Sorry, but I just can't recommend this one of his books. ...more info
  • Slow global warming by changing what you eat!
    I love this book! I was already familiar with the principle that an individual can have a greater impact on reducing global warming by eating less meat and dairy products than by switching to a hybrid vehicle. Well, I've already got the hybrid. And I had started cutting back on my meat consumption. But this book combines the logic behind the change with some different approaches to eating. I like it that the recipes are "flexitarian" -- they can be made without meat, or with a small amount of fish, chicken, or other meat. Vegetarian purity is not the goal; changing the burden of your diet on the environment of the planet is. My family will be happier with a gradual reduction in meat-eating. We don't have to go Cold Tofurkey!...more info
  • Sound information. Practical application
    I used to be a vegetarian. I have read most of this information before. However, Mark takes a fresh approach by offering a solution that doesn't idealistically scream for all the world to convert to vegetarianism. Lets get real, it's not going to happen any time soon. When I used to read books by Vegetarian Times and various authors such as Francis Moore Lappe, I thoughts, "It's a great concept, but how are you going to implement it?" Mark does that. He does an impressive job of presenting the facts without preaching. The information would be compelling even to someone who wasn't already on his side. He is non-judgemental and uses plain common-sense in his approach. He gives simple guidelines rather than a "diet" and states in less than 2 pages exactly how it worked for him, practically. I have already started to implement his suggestions. They are ideas that you can run with right now. They don't require weeks of planning and researching recipes or setting up a "diet plan". I haven't tried the recipes yet, but am certain that they will be as delectable as those in his previous publications. Mark has always been good at simple, unpretentious food. Nothing's changed here. I highly recommend this book and its ideas for world change and health change. Good job, Mark!...more info
  • An eye-opener
    Wow! What an interesting read this was. I got a whole new appreciation for the planet and how everything we do (including what we eat) affects every other thing on the planet. It's not a diet book. It's more about being conscious of the choices we make and shockingly, for me, how the cattle industry affects the planet (just one example but the most surprising for me). And it's not just being conscious of food but conscious of the way we live - for example how running an SUV for a few hours is equal to a steak dinner for a family of four while leaving all of the lights on in the house. It will definitely make me think about my own lifestyle going forward. I'm not saying I'll change everything immediately, but over time, I will continue to reduce my own footprints in anyway I can. The author, Mark Bittman, also provides recipes that look really delicious (including recipes with meat like Thai Beef Salad). Overall, a very informative, interesting read even if you don't cook. I've already recommended this to a few friends. ...more info
  • Discussions of organic, sustainable, and conscious food choices
    What is 'responsible eating', and how can such habits be fostered? FOOD MATTERS covers everything from government policy and global economics to marketing in his discussions of organic, sustainable, and conscious food choices. There's plenty of science and also plenty of tips on how to tailor a lifestyle to make food choices fit as well as reflect social change. Any collection strong in vegetarian or political food selection needs FOOD MATTERS, an outstanding clear call for action on a personal level: the dinner table....more info
  • Uh - NO. Not for me!
    I'm sorry, but I am really tired of being bashed for eating beef! What about chicken? This author seems to think THEY are fine, yet their conditions surely rival that of the beef industry when it comes to quality of life of the animal.

    I do NOT buy into the argument that the human body is able to be sustained by eating massive quantities of grains and veggies. God gave us canine teeth for a good reason - to tear into some tasty MEAT!

    Now, I will say that I cannot disagree with everything in this book. I personally prefer to buy grassfed, freerange critters to eat whenever possible and my pocketbook allows it. I believe that the food industry could improve itself vastly as far as treating its animal products more humanely.

    When I eat that much of a grain/fruit-based diet, as advocated by this author, I break out in FAT! ...more info
  • Heal the Planet by becoming more Health Conscious
    "Industrialized meat production has contributed to climate change and stimulated a fundamental change in our diet that has contributed to our being overweight, even obese, and more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and perhaps even cancer." ~ pg. 2

    If you buy this book for any reason at all, buy it for the creamy carrot soup recipe. If you make your own vegetable stock it will take you two hours, but if you use "Better than Bouillon" vegetable base (found at your local grocery store) you will save an hour. It took me about an hour to make the soup but it was well worth the effort. You can also freeze the leftovers quite easily and have a quick lunch or dinner ready to go. The only issues with the recipe is that Mark Bittman doesn't tell you to cut the carrots into 1-inch pieces - instead he says "roughly chopped." You also have to have all the vegetables ready to go before you start heating the oil. His first step is heating the oil. I also found that you have to bring the soup to a boil more quickly (high heat) and then reduce the heat to medium again if you want the soup to cook in 20 minutes (this is after 15 minutes of cooking the vegetables in the oil). This recipe was a pleasure to make and even my cat approved (she came running to me as I was eating lunch) as she licked some off my finger. I didn't give her very much although she wanted more because cats are not supposed to eat onions. The onions in this recipe give the carrots a delicious flavor once processed with an immersion blender. You will be surprised at the creaminess of the recipe even though it contains no milk products. I wasn't even tempted to add any cream.

    The rest of the book is interesting but most of the information is about reducing the amount of meat you eat. Mark Bittman believes that the only way to reduce factory farming is to demand less meat. I'm only eating red meat about once a week and mostly choose organic or natural beef, cage-free eggs and organic chicken. So while reading through the first part of the book I felt I was doing fairly well. Mark Bittman explains why junk food and overrefined carbohydrates are a bad idea. He has some strange ideas like drinking tap water instead of bottled. Although they both can harm you with chlorine in tap water or toxic chemicals leaching from the plastic. You really choose your poison unless you buy a water filter to use at home. Mark Bittman also admits to using sugar in his coffee - I guess he hasn't heard of "Stevia" yet which tastes so similar to sugar you won't notice a difference.

    So while there is a lot of discussion about why meat is bad for you I was surprised to see that there are quite a few recipes using red meat. One recipe even calls for raw meat which I think is dangerous in the age in which we live. The rest of the recipes show you how to cook beans, make vegetable chips, use whole grains in flat bread, make delicious salads and to make healthy fruit smoothies. There are also quite a few recipes for fish and chicken.

    Mark Bittman has been writing about food for 30 years so he obviously knows what he is talking about even though he seems skeptical about "acai berries." I found his discussion about food to be quite compelling even though he isn't as strict with himself as some authors promoting a vegetarian diet tend to be. At times I felt as if he was sitting on the fence and I wished he would just take one side or the other. So while this is not a book about vegetarian food it is a book about eating more vegetables and whole grains. In the end this book is about being more responsible and health conscious. If we all ate less meat it could really make a difference in the world. While I only found one recipe I wanted to try I think it is worth the price of the book. There are 77 recipes to choose from so you are bound to find something you will love. If you want more vegetarian foods try: How to Cook Everything : Vegetarian Cooking or Skinny Bitch in the Kitch - lots of great recipes you will use again and again!

    ~The Rebecca Review
    ...more info
  • Think about what you eat
    This book really makes you think about what you eat and how we've been brainwashed into believing what is good for you. I do most of my own cooking anyway, but I now have a new way of looking at what I eat, what is healthy and what foods I should focus on when grocery shopping. I sometimes pass on fruit because the prices may be high, but don't balk at the price of meat or goodies. Pound for pound, fruit and vegies are a much better deal. If you are the main source of getting foods into the house, this book is a must. Read and enjoy....more info
  • Change the world and yourself
    With many, many vegetarian cookbooks in my home, Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" has been my go-to book, but I often puzzled at the "he is not a vegetarian" in one of the brief bios I'd read.

    This book is an ideal gift for a young person just starting out (along with some of the grains mentioned in the book, I'd suggest) for whom the big tome might be too intimidating. It sets out in detail the "sane eating" changes which can improve one's health and the state of the planet, and provides simple recipes to make these changes a personal reality.

    Beautifully laid out, there are marginal summaries (in green, of course) of each point, just in case even this small book is too much to read.

    Of course, I'm puzzled why anyone who recognizes the health benefits of avoiding meat, the problems for global warming and depletion of resources in raising animals for food, and how disrespectful meat eating is to the animal would NOT be a vegetarian, but I'll try to take a page from the serenity of this book, and recognize that when one eats sanely, meat becomes a less and less important part of the diet....more info
  • Well-written, engaging, and terrific recipes
    Mark Bittman argues convincingly for a traditional way of eating, meaning a lot less meat and dairy, and a lot more vegetables, grains, and beans: it's healthy for you, and healthy for the planet.

    It's the recipes, though, that are most likely to produce true believers. Seductively easy and delicious, this is food for people who care about taste and variety.

    This book is not an anti-meat diatribe; rather, Bittman offers an abundance of grain, fruit, bean, and vegetable recipes that are simple, versatile, and flavorful. The ingredients are readily available (no special-shopping-trip or mail-order-only exotica), and the recipes are also easily adapted to suit either a vegan or a person for whom no meat at all is an anathema.

    And have I mentioned how really good they all taste?...more info
  • Good book for dieters...
    If you like Michael Pollan's books on the politics on food ("Omnivore's Dilemma", you will like this one too. Great way to start a diet. There are recipes too, but a bit unusual... D.Syme...more info
  • A very important book for our times
    I love the way he simply presents the facts, and there's no bullying or political correctness to deal with, although some of that is necessary. I haven't gotten to the recipes but I will most certainly try to make some small changes in the way I eat as a result of reading just the first part of the book.
    Americans are too fat and by making a few changes in our daily intake we can change the world. What a concept....more info
  • A Thoughtful Approach to Food
    Mark Bittman asks his reader to make thoughtful choices about the foods they eat. He suggests eating less meat, less refined starches, and more vegetables. He claims that making these lifestyle changes will make you healthier and will be beneficial for the environment as well.

    The great thing about this book is that Bittman is pretty laid back about the whole thing. He's advocating changes in how we consume food, but not necessarily radical lifestyle changes. You can still eat the kinds of foods you like, just be more intelligent about when you eat them and how you prepare them.

    He's also got some interesting recipes in this book. They range from pretty typical stuff with his more healthy spin to stuff I can't imagine anyone eating. I think his recipe for microwave popcorn is the best though....more info
  • A new voice in the debate
    Bittman is now treading where Pollan and Nestle have gone before, and carrying the same banners that they have carried.

    I like Bittman's cookbooks. I'm quite proud to have bought my copy of How To Cook Everything before it won a single award, and when people are over looking at my cookbooks I often point out the bare yellow cover with not a single award on it.

    This book though, didn't sit well with me when I started reading it. In retrospect, the reason I didn't like it was because this book wasn't up to the same level of writing as Michael Pollan's previous books. Of course, since Pollan didn't write this one, that makes sense.

    The beginning of the book is probably the least enjoyable. He covers a lot of ground too quickly, and (to me at least) it felt more like I was being lectured to because I had been a bad eater. The tone quickly mellows though, and there is a lot of good stuff in the book.

    Once I was over the hump though, this book became engrossing. I strongly reccommend this book, and I hope that Mr. Bittman continues to write these kinds of books....more info
  • Good book, but I don't recommend the Kindle version

    For those of you considering buying this on your kindle, you should know that there is no index to the recipes (no index at all, for that matter). I have had to bookmark each recipe that interested me. Even had to bookmark the table of contents as it wasn't pre-marked as it should have been. Also, there are sentences that apparently appeared in a sidebar of the printed version that just randomly appear mixed in the text with no font variation to distinguish them. And there is a "table" that is strung out over multiple pages not looking anything like a table or chart at all. It is probably worth the extra $$ for the print version.

    As for the book itself, it wasn't new information to me, but was well presented and entertaining to read. I am delighted that a well-known food writer like Bittman is trying to get Americans to eat a more wholesome and ecological diet. I have only tried one recipe so far, and thought it was quite tasty. ...more info
  • Originality matters
    I have no conflicting interests involving any of the authors mentioned in this review.
    Mr. Bittman is a renowned food writer who has previously authored several successful cookbooks. In this work, however, he has written a half-cookbook, half-nutritional commentary. The recipes are undeniably appealing and clearly written, which leads me to suspect it might have been better as a cookbook with the nutritional overview confined to an introduction. Instead, the first half of the book is a rather superficial, subjective invocation to fight back against a perceived agribusiness-governmental conspiracy to malnourish us and destroy the planet. The message is that by shifting from an animal to plant-based diet, we can live healthier and indirectly reduce the ecologic footprint of our diets. After a career of living and writing as an omnivorous gourmand, the author shares an almost quaint excitement in his discovery that such a diet is not only more sensitive to global needs, but also helped him lose weight! And since we are wisely advised to take a "sane" approach and not totally eliminate comfort food, we can have our nobility and eat cake, too!
    The nutritional approach that is revealed as such a personal epiphany here has already been more thoroughly developed and better written about in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which is acknowledged as source material. And as for a convincing argument of the benefits of a "whole food, plant-based diet", The China Study by T.C. Campbell achieved that goal by relying solely on evidence, not the personal anecdote and opinion which are stirred so generously into this chef's creation.

    ...more info
  • Food Matters gets right to the point...
    Food Matters gets right to the point. The third paragraph's hook is so intriguing that you just don't want to put it down. Bittman writes, "If I told you that a simple lifestyle choice could help you lose weight, reduce your risk of many long-term or chronic diseases, save you real money, and help stop global warming, I imagine you'd be intrigued." The book is loaded with facts, ideas, experiences, and advice. Mr. Bittman has presented his information with such clarity that even if you know the facts already, then you just want to see it again. A reader might be appalled by the facts and astounded that they are true, but the smallest changes lead to big ones. Mark doesn't stress counting calories, or might I say, even avoiding treats; all he says is, keep track of what you put into your body. Changing your diet step-by-step will eventually lead to a dramatic change. After reading his book, you can find a six-week meal plan in the back. For the majority of Americans, his plan would be perfect (however, my eating habits are not the norm in America.) If you want to learn more about what to eat, pick up Mr. Bittman's book. It's a quick read! For more information, check out my blog at!...more info
  • Informative, Sensible, Practical
    Already a fan of Bittman and the Minimalist series, I enjoy the practicality of his recipes -- few specialized ingredients, easy to be modified for smaller amounts, and they don't require hours in the kitchen. His book "Food Matters" is an example of this minimalist approach to food, but with some additional insight into what we're eating and the consequences to ourselves and our environment. It's the non-dieters diet, that doesn't require elimination of anything, doesn't leave us guilty over having a Big Mac occasionally, and doesn't chain us to a hard and fast meal plan (although he does include that as example). It's pure common sense with the research and facts to back it up. A good read with some great recipes. ...more info
  • Great Book - But don't get the Kindle version
    For those of you considering buying this on your kindle, you should know that there is no index to the recipes (no index at all, for that matter). I have had to bookmark each recipe that interested me. Even had to bookmark the table of contents as it wasn't pre-marked as it should have been. Also, there are sentences that apparently appeared in a sidebar of the printed version that just randomly appear mixed in the text with no font variation to distinguish them. And there is a "table" that is strung out over multiple pages not looking anything like a table or chart at all. It is probably worth the extra $$ for the print version.

    As for the book itself, it wasn't new information to me, but was well presented and entertaining to read. I am delighted that a well-known food writer like Bittman is trying to get Americans to eat a more wholesome and ecological diet. I have only tried one recipe so far, and thought it was quite tasty....more info
  • Quick read, good information
    I enjoyed reading this book, it's concise and to the point. Much of what the author argues has been said before, but I must confess I had missed the magnitude of these issues in the past. You won't find a whole lot of details about global warming or diets and nutrition matters, but you will understand why we should all pay more attention to the impact of food to our health and to the environment.
    ...more info
  • Another winner for Bittman, and us!
    What a great follow up book to read after Michael Pollan's Eater's Manifesto. Bittman has rethought our diets with a world view: think globally, eat locally. The recipes I've tried are great--fast and infinitely flexible--Bittman's forte. The book's so good, I'm already revamping my eating style--he makes it pretty easy....more info
  • Food Matters, It Really Does
    If you've read any of my reviews you know that I collect cookbooks and fancy myself as a bit of a gourmet chef. But I'm also sort of an environmentalist too. My hubby Dub and I live on a sailboat in the Caribbean part of the year and we are very conscientious. Because we live on the ocean we like to see it pristine and clean. It hurts us when we see waste, even if it's only a lone beer can, floating by. We are not vegetarians -- though I have a lot of vegetarian cooks books, including Mr. Bittman's excellent How to Cook Everything Vegetarian -- however, we hardly ever eat beef. We eat a lot of fish as Dub fancies himself as sort of a fisherman extraordinaire and we eat often eat chicken.

    But I have to confess, until I picked up this book I'd never given much thought to the damage humans were doing to the environment just by eating. Beef, bad for you, bad for Mama Earth. Cows, the way we raise them, the gases they give off, get the picture? Plus, who wants to think of the last cow in that slaughterhouse line?

    Basically Mr. Bittman is saying by cleaning up our eating act we can help clean up the environment. A novel approach. I used to think it's okay to have a steak once in a while and maybe even to stop off at Mickey D's on occasion, but Mr. Bittman makes a pretty persuasive argument against it, or at least doing it too often.

    I've only tried one recipe from his book to date and I have to say it was interesting to say the least. We put salsa on our porridge, actually pico de gallo on oatmeal as a side dish with Salmon and veggies. Savory oatmeal, who woulda thunk it. It wasn't all that bad, it's an acquired taste I think, but I see where Mr. Bittman is coming from. His recipes do look interesting and I'll be trying some more of them, because in my opinion any little bit we can do to help out the Earth who mothers us all is a good thing.

    Reviewed by Captain Katie Osborne...more info
  • Good advice and easy to swallow
    Did you know that global livestock production is responsible for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gasses -- MORE THAN TRANSPORTATION? In this concise, well-written book, statistics like that leap off the pages. Here's another one: "If we all ate the equivalent of three fewer cheeseburgers a week, we'd cancel out the effects of ALL THE SUV'S IN THE COUNTRY!"

    Mr. Bittman knows how to get one's attention. But he follows these and other startling statistics with calm and rational thinking. Radical is OUT; common sense is IN. His recommendations for change are not based on deprivation. Neither are they faddist nor elitist. Stock your pantry with whole grains, beans, and your refrigerator with washed greens, vegetables and fruit. READ THOSE LABELS when you shop. Avoid hydrogenated anything, MSG, high fructose corn syrup or anything containing an ingredient you've never heard of. Most of us know this; Bittman just has a talent for presenting it concisely and entertainingly.

    He knows we are not immune to unhealthy cravings and deals with it intelligently. For example, if you love bacon, "Keep a hunk in the freezer or fridge and use it for seasoning. An ounce goes a long way." And when the flavor of butter is indispensable in a certain dish, think of it as an occasional pleasure -- a little reward for following the essential principles presented in this book for the majority of the time.

    The recipes are extremely easy -- familiar to most everyone. But he adds many creative touches; for example: seasoning blends that you can make and store, ready to add a little punch here and there. No insipid, bland, I-hate-this-but-it's-good-for-me nonsense for this gourmet author.

    I've already started putting this book into practice. And I believe, if asked, he would give me permission to make (maybe only once a year and sliced very, very thinly) my favorite pat¨¦, Mr. Bittman's own Country Pat¨¦ from the NY Times.

    My advice: Buy it and READ it....more info
  • Great information
    A lot of food for thought, pun intended. Will change the way I eat. Definitely a worthwhile read....more info
  • If you care about your health and the planet, a must read!
    If you follow Mark Bittman's eating recommendations in this book, you can't fail to be healthier. Bittman gives reasons why the American public is often mislead about what they are eating, and gives guidelines about what to eat to be in much better health and to help the planet. About 75 recipes follow, such as Savory Vegetable and Grain Torta and Creamy Carrot Soup.

    The real strength to the book though is not the recipes, which are well done, but for a well known food author to state very clearly the hazards both to ourselves and the planet of continuing to eat diets high in meat, dairy, fat, and junk food. The simple truth is that vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are much better for you, the less processed the better. While he does not go so far as to suggest giving up meat, chicken, dairy, and seafood, he makes a great case for dramatically cutting down on these catagories of food.

    The book has wonderful side notes, and sample menus as well. My only disappointment was that the size of the book. The book is about 300 pages not including the index, and all of Mark Bittman's other food and recipe books are huge in size. The arguments could have been much longer and even more convincing, and the recipe section far more extensive. However, keeping it short and to the point as he has may be far better for the majority of readers who may be new to the subject. I have read many books on the subject over the years, and this one should appeal to a less 'radical' audience than some of the earlier books on healthy eating for a better planet.

    In short, changing our eating habits can be very hard- and diets can be nearly impossible. But when you gradually change your overall approach to eating as Bittman suggests, I know from personal experience that your weight can decrease and your health improve, which is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves- and the planet....more info
  • Great information in this book!
    I liked this book for many reasons. First I want to say that I am not familiar with any of Mark Bittman's books, so this is the first one I have read. I noticed in a lot of other reviews that he has written other books that people feel are better then this one. Without comparing this book with any other book he has written, this is a BIG eye opener for the average person. I am not a vegetarian or certainly never planned on being one. I have a sister that just recently converted to being a vegetarian, me and other people in my family kind of made a joke about it because she is always into the latest fads.

    Well after reading this book, and reading about the effects on the environment my eating habits have on it, I have a whole different outlook on the way me and my family eat. Now I have been buying organic products for a very long time. Certain things like milk and eggs were top on my organic list, and although I do buy a lot of organic food, I would still buy certain sale items from my local grocery store, like high grade steak and hamburger meat. Of course without knowing what I know now. I would have never thought of the amount of land and food it takes to breed the animals we eat on a daily basis, and how it will double or even triple in the coming years. Not to mention the horrific treatment these animals endure during their lives. As well as the effects it has on our own bodies.

    All the facts that he mentions in this book almost brought tears to my eyes regarding how the manufacturing of cattle and other animals are done. The recipes in this book seem pretty good. The only one's I've tried are the Stir Fried Beans with Asparagus or Broccoli and Noodles with Mushrooms. I tried the stir fry with broccoli instead of Asparagus, and both recipes were very good. My teenage kids even enjoyed them. I have not yet tried all the recipes in the book, but I will be cooking very differently from now on. I also found myself consulting with my vegetarian sister on what the best vegetarian meals are to cook as well. All I can say after reading this book is if you know someone who is a big beef eater, then maybe you should buy this book for them, just so they understand the process involved in the making and manufacturing of what their favorite meals are, and I think they may have a whole different outlook on what they put in their bodies. This book has had a huge impact on me, and I think it's important to spread the word of my new found knowledge. ...more info
  • Always Happy to Have Bittman In The Kitchen
    Mark Bittman is fun to watch in his NYTimes Videos and he's fun to read.
    But more than fun, he is intelligent and, as in Buddhism, posits the Middle Way.
    He shows mindfulness can be fun and healthy; good for the benefit of beings....more info
  • Food Matters
    I loved this book. Coincidentally I had decided to go on a Vegan diet for a while in order to loose weight. 2 days later watched Mark Bittman on NBC and was convinced to get the book. You don't have to go vegan but his way of eating makes so much sense. After 3 wks I was much more alert and had more energy. This is NOT another diet book , just a better way of eating. Mix it up , eat meat, do whatever but his book is very good.
    rl...more info
  • Michael Pollan put into practice
    In "Food Matters," Mark Bittman has distilled the arguments and recommendations of food guru/philosopher Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food) and others into a manual for better eating. Where Pollan focuses on the philosophy of our food choices, Bittman focuses on the practical aspects of buying, cooking and eating a healthy diet.

    While Bittman's previous cookbooks, "How to Cook Everything" and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," are, as their titles would suggest, enormous tomes weighing in at close to five pounds each, "Food Matters" is a slimmer, more manageable read. He summarizes the current arguments about what constitutes a sensible diet, then shows you how to set up your kitchen, your shopping, and your cooking to make this style of eating simple and easy- but most importantly, he makes it all sound appealing, like something you want to start doing, you want to try his meal ideas; and then you want to try them again with the alternative ingredients he suggests.

    If you are unfamiliar with Mark Bittman, this book is a great introduction. Even if you have one of Bittman's other cookbooks, this one is a concise summary of his ideas and how to put them into action using recipes from both the vegetarian and and non-vegetarian realms. If you've read Michael Pollan, but are not sure where to start, this book is your user's manual. It would also make a great gift for friends who start asking you, "what's that you're eating?" and "how do you stay so thin?"
    ...more info
  • informative and striaightforward
    great info on the impact that the production of our food has on the environment in this country. the amount of energy to produce meat is astounding.
    the back to basics ingredients and recipes are great, no chemicals, prepackaged junk, its so simple, its stupid - we are overwhelmed these days with crazy diets, pills and potions. this plan makes sense....more info
  • Dietless
    Leave it to "The Minimalist" writer of New York Times and PBS fame, Mark Bittman, to use shortcuts even in his book title to convey multiple messages. Food Matters means both that the food we select makes a difference, and this book concerns food. Following a personal medical wake up call, Bittman chose to make some improvements to his diet along the lines that all of us know when it comes to clarity on what's good for us: eat more plants, fewer animals, and skip junk food. In a non-doctrinaire manner, Bittman surveys the state of food in America, habits of eating, and offers practical suggestions for making choices that improve health without leading to feelings of deprivation. For those readers who hate being on a regimented diet, Food Matters offers simple ways to buy and prepare good food, including dozens of recipes. It's simpler than most of us imagine.

    Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
    ...more info


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