An average Jane on health and nutrition

Archive for August, 2013

back from vacation

I’ve been quiet for a little while because I’ve been spending time with family and the water and the great outdoors up in New Hampshire.

So peaceful.

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Vacation is time for board games and grilling and sleeping in. And for fun activities. The cottage we stayed at had a pedal boat, canoe, and kayak for our use. I got in some good kayaking, and, here, taking out the canoe with my mom in the early morning.

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It’s not often that I get to take multi-day vacations, and this was very welcome. It’s unfortunate that the way our society is set up, vacations, even just staying home and doing something you enjoy, aren’t really something we encourage. But they are so so necessary. I feel much more refreshed. Ready to tackle work, to tackle life.

Vacation was pretty late into August, and its conclusion really felt like winding down the summer. September 1st is always the end of summer in my head, so coupling it with vacation ending so close to that really makes me feel like this season has come to an end.

But, in other exciting news, next week I start an intro nutrition class, as potential preparation for my Master’s degree. I’m looking forward to getting more formal education on nutrition, though I rather expect to find some interesting dichotomies between the current accepted “nutrition think” and the backlash to Big Food, etc.

I also just miss academia. So that will be fun.

I have a post partly finished about Mark Bittmann’s TED talk on “What’s Wrong With the Food We Eat” but it needs a little more honing. Look for it soon! 🙂

Happy end of summer, everyone.

– Julia

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Effects of changes in WIC

Interesting article in the New Yorker about the changes made to WIC and their trickle-down (positive) effects.

1)      A dip (albeit a very small one so far) in early childhood obesity, and

2)      A rise in stocking more nutritious foods in stores that previously didn’t have them available. (That is, the foods newly purchasable with WIC checks.)

I frequently talk about how, if you want to eat healthy, we’re fortunate enough to live in a time where you probably can. The less time and money you have, the greater the obstacles, but even if you’re buying from little more than a glorified gas station, there’s frozen vegetables, fruit cups, cheese and yogurt, etc. It sounds lame, but the first step to eating healthy is believing you can. And eating healthy is not an all-or-nothing, where if you don’t have mostly salads, or if you ate an extra cookie, you’ve undone everything. Sometimes, eating healthy is just choosing water instead of soda a few more times a week. Grabbing a snack pack of almonds instead of a snack pack of potato chips.

That said, yes, there are places where your local store has more things with expiration dates 6+ months from now than fresh foods. More white breads and anything resembling the original grains. Not ideal. Not how you’d like to have to do all your food shopping.

But if it’s true that less diverse food environments and tiny grocery corner stores are expanding their fresh and nutritious options to capitalize on WIC dollars, I’m all for it. This article suggests that some of these types of stores have started carrying the more nutritious items as a result for the demand for it, and to be able to make money. I’m heartened to see this working – government assistance of healthy food for those who need it, and stores able to provide that food while still making money as businesses need to do – even if there are still a lot of things to be worked out.

Article here:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/08/good-news-on-obesity-and-a-political-challenge.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

– Julia

health in the broadest sense of the word

For me, there’s a lot of things that make up health.

The physical: being able to do daily activities, being hydrated, well-nourished, feeling good physically.

The mental: taking stress in stride, finding ways to be happy, enjoying the little and the big things in life.

Of course, life likes to test that. When I just read a post by Lisa Richardson, about her conscious efforts to slow down, I had a very ‘yes, yes, exactly’ response.

I have likewise been making efforts to slow things down over the last few years. Cooking dinner instead of microwaving dinner. Getting to sleep a little earlier instead of cramming things into the evening that probably get done sloppily when tired anyway. Appreciating little details, like nice breezes on spring days. And, importantly, making time for the physical health that assists with the mental health.

It’s funny, because there are times when I would have thought that taking a break from a hectic schedule to pop into a yoga class, or go for a bike ride would just be delays in meeting deadlines, delays which would make me more stressed. But sometimes clichés become clichés for a reason, and I’ve found that it’s true that taking breaks is a major help. Not just taking breaks in the middle of a specific project. I just mean breaks in my overall day, my overall life. Taking a pause from musts and shoulds for some movement that often clears my head, gets me re-energized, lets me tackle the musts and shoulds with a fresh look.

It’s a constant process, and there are definitely times when a deadline is just too pressing to be ignored. But I’m trying to prevent those times from becoming the default again. Leave them as the exception, rather than the nose-to-the-grindstone rule.

Do you find you’re able to make time to slow down and do something for yourself?

– Julia

 

Annnnnnd breakfast.

The sunlight, insanely bright this morning, woke me and wouldn’t let me fall back asleep. I took that as a sign to get up and make my salmon leftovers.

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And, since it’s early and low humidity, I think I’ll go for a short hike this morning. Nourish the body with good food, keep it fit and running smoothly with good activity.

PS. About the grape tomatoes. I mentioned yesterday that cooking for one sometimes comes with extra ingredients. With some things, it’s just apparently unavoidable. If there’s a stray veggie just stuck off to the side of something, chances are I’m getting it into some meals to use it up before it goes bad. I treat veggies like the jeans of the food world. They go with everything.

-Julia

Tonight’s Dinner is Tomorrow’s Breakfast: Cooking for One

I live alone, and sometimes cooking for one is a hassle. Some food items are clearly intended for multiple people, and I can either make it and eat it for days, or wait til friends come over. (I’m looking at you, tacos.)

But, cooking for two and thinking of it as “two meals” instead of “two people” works pretty well for me. So when I saw a beautiful piece of salmon on sale, I bought one, intending to bake up half for dinner, and save the other half for breakfast. The trick to cooking for one with the same ingredients is to think of things to do that make the meals different, so that it doesn’t seem boring and repetitive.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I find that I don’t buy a ton of meat because it’s effort to cook it for myself, and I often just don’t bother. One of the things I do like to buy on sale, though, is Al Fresco Sweet Italian chicken sausage. On sale it’s usually $5 for several links, and I’ve found numerous uses. My favorite it to cook up a couple links at the same time, and then separate them into different dishes. I may add one to a small bowl of pasta with olives, peas, and sauce for a quick pasta dish, or stir fry pieces with some onions and peppers to put in a roll for a sausage grinder. I’ll chop up pieces for an omelette, or use them in breakfast muffins. (Recipe eventually, I promise.)

So with the salmon, I thought, how can I make this into two distinct, separate meals? For starters, I thought baking for dinner.

I picked up some dill, in an unfortunately-large bunch that will see me searching for dill-related recipes for the rest of the week, and knew I had a lemon at home. Throwing it all in some foil:

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (making rice in the meantime) and voila. Dinner.

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And for tomorrow, I’ll fry up the rest of it, and mix it in with some scrambled eggs, spinach, and cheese over toast.

One food item, two separate and tasty uses. Cooking for one, with a little planning: delicious and healthy.

Do you regularly cook for just yourself? What are your favorite ways to make the most of your meals?

– Julia