Two of the biggest books in food this year happen to be written by men that share the same first name. And, the two books—Cooked by Michael Pollan and Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss—happen to share some similar themes as well. In short, our food system is messed up. Moss brings these problems to light through his detailed reporting of food industry tactics while Pollan advocates for a return to cooking, arguing that the best way to get healthy is simply to cook.

The New York Times decided to take the Michaels on a grocery shopping trip to see how both of them would navigate the supermarket to come up with ingredients for a (home-cooked, natch) lunch. Here are four things that they teach us about food shopping:

1. "Behind these shelves is the most fiercely competitive industry there is." -Michael Moss

Food companies pay for shelf space, so there's a reason that certain brands are at eye-level. And those products all the way at the bottom or top? It has nothing to do with quality—the companies just haven't paid as much for the space.

2. "A lot of people when they hear this term 'processed food' assume it is all the same and it is all equally bad." -Michael Pollan
In the world of processed food, there are now such things are hyper-processed foods. Some processed foods have only three ingredients, while others can have dozens. In this case, less is often more.

3. "I think frozen vegetables are terrific." -Michael Pollan
In an ideal world, perhaps we would only be eating fresh vegetables. But in reality, in which we don't have time to always buy fresh, frozen is a worthy substitute.

4. "It's more important that you eat vegetables, even if they are conventional—I'm talking about for your health—then it is until you wait until you can afford organic, or you can find organic." -Michael Pollan

This is a central theme in Cooked. Just cook. Then refine your strategy.

Photo credit: The New York Times

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