Archive for the 'Healthy Living' Category

Sweet Peaches and Spicy Beans

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day learning how to can vegetables and fruit with a chef-friend of mine.  We started our day picking the freshest fruits and veggies we could find at the farmer’s market and then went to my house to begin the labor-intensive yet wonderfully fun task of canning.  We made some glorious peach and basil preserves and several cans of garlic/chili pepper pickled green beans (can’t wait to use them on a bloody mary!).

Canning is not something I ever thought I would want to learn - I had always just looked at home canned foods as a mysterious occurance that I would never be capable of.  Yet, yesterday, there I was water-bathing and sanitizing jars as if I had been doing it for years.  There is always something very gratifying about doing things by scratch.  It reminded me of my lifelong affection with bread baking.  It is theraputic and meditative and as close to something historically/genetically wired within us as you can get.  The feeling I get when creating food, whole food that has to be tended to and worked on to be edible, is very similar to the feeling I got nursing my children.  It feels right.  It feels like a very natural thing for me, as a woman, to do. 

And it is just plain fun for me.  There are very few things I enjoy as much as cooking. Canning is a very different variation on cooking, though.  It constantly makes you think of a different time.  It made me think of my grandmother, even though I am pretty certain she may have never canned in her life.  How different things used to be in our world.  How different we are now.  How we do things like can fruits and vegetables now, not for survival, but for a connection and a link to our past and our family that we might have never known.  It was one of the most symbolic cooking experiences I have ever had - even more-so than baking bread…  What occured to me was that our history as women is quite interlinked with our relationship with food and the history of food in itself.  That’s a whole ‘nother article though.  If you have never tried canning, I highly recommend it.

Posted in Cooking, Healthy Living | No Comments »

Something Fishy

So, after thirteen years as a devout vegetarian, I have decided to incorporate fish into my diet.  The steps of this vegetarian journey have been interesting for me to be a part of:  the young, idealistic, revolutionary-minded fifteen year old that started it all, the turn to becoming an introspective college kid who was more interested in saving herself than the world, the woman with kids who wanted to make sure her children weren’t suckered into our horrifically un-nutritious culture and, now, an almost-thirty year old wanting to insure my own longevity and health for many, many years to come. 

I don’t disagree that a person can live an ultimately healthy and long life as a pure vegetarian.  I’ve seen it in many over-fifty friends of mine.  Something changed in me, though, about two years ago.  I am not certain what it was, but, somewhere along the lines I started having an insatiable urge to eat fish.  It struck me as odd because I have never eaten fish in my life - with the occassional popcorn shrimp or fishstick my mom would fry up when I was a child.  I wasn’t craving something that I missed - I was craving something that I have never had before.  I started to think that maybe my body was trying to tell me something - maybe my body wasn’t so interested in the taste of fish as much as it was interested in what the fish could offer in nutrients.

Here’s what I have found:

Fish are nutritious and good to eat. When properly prepared, fish provide numerous health benefits, especially for the heart. The American Heart Association recommends eating two to three fish meals each week. The benefits of eating fish include:

*Fish offer high-quality protein with fewer calories than a similar-sized portion of meat. For example, both catfish and ground beef are about 18% protein. But, for an 8-ounce meal, the catfish will have only about 232 calories, while the regular ground beef will have about 640 calories.
*Fish are low in sodium and are good sources of potassium, vitamins, and other minerals.
*Fish are generally low in cholesterol and saturated fats, which have been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.
*While the benefits of fish on nutrition are still being studied, much of the current research is focused on various kinds of beneficial fats in fish, particularly a kind called omega-3 fatty acids which are in some fish and fish oils. Some studies have indicated that these fatty acids have favorable effects on health conditions such as hardening of the arteries, high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Granted, you can get all of these nutrients elsewhere if you work really hard to incorporate them into your diet.  I used to use a lot of flax seed in my cooking but, since having children I don’t cook as many things from scratch as I used to.  I dunno.  Also, I guess I am just tired of feeling guilt - which I hate to admit is a large part of my deal.  I can’t stand the thought of anything dying because of me.  I want to find balance in my life that can reconcile the fact that,indeed, I may want/need some other proteins and nutrients that I am not getting due to my lack of diligence with my diet with my need for a clear conscious.  I want to find some maturity to my ideals and find that balance.  I want to explore the next step of my progression as a human being. 

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Living, Nutrition for Adults | No Comments »

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Fresh Air Gone?

One of my best friends has always been one of the most nature-philic people I know.  She has to be surrounded, for some part of her day, by mountains or open fields or rivers or creeks.  She can’t exist, happily, without them. 

I came to realize, in my early twenties, that I was not the same way.  I spent a lot of my teen years wondering why I never felt that pull toward being outdoors.  All those years of everyone inviting me camping and hiking never made me giddy with excitement - it just wasn’t my idea of entertainment or relaxation.  Bugs and sweat don’t turn me on.  I always love the view from atop a mountain that I just hiked, but the getting there part is never anything that I enjoy. I like (love) the city.  I love air conditioned museums and sidewalk cafes.  I would rather spend my day sitting on the floor of a used bookstore than at the beach.  I like that I have learned this about myself before the age of thirty. 

Ok, but now I have these two beautiful kids and, occassionally, when I help one of them blow their nose I find that their sweet little baby snot is full of black sooty looking stuff.  I notice that they cough a wee bit more than I did when I was a kid.  They get colds with a greater frequency than my friends’ kids who live out in the country (note: I said country, not suburbs.  I think the suburbs are equally as detrimental to one’s health as the city, if not more).  Is this what is best for them? 

Is it possible for us urbanites to marry our love of the city with some kind of commune with nature?  Yes and no.  Obviously, we are a species that has taken ourselves seriously out of the loop in regard to natures deepest cycles but there are people researching means to this end:

We believe that urban planning efforts and public policies would benefit greatly by integrating the lessons learned by ecologists working with health professionals, and the ecological health guidelines that these researchers are setting forth.  It is clear that urbanization, and the inevitable degradation of the environment that ensues, disrupts ecosystem processes and ultimately threatens human health, and the well-being of all species of animals and plants. 

Hopefully, I won’t feel the need to push the eject button, but I think that finding a city that regards this balance is going to be an important factor in our decision making factor for where we settle down for good.

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Sugar Sugar

I have been giving something a lot of thought lately. I am thinking about my son and sugar. We are not a family that consumes a lot of it - but lately we have been very lazy about how much we allow our kids to have.  I have always felt that we balance our healthy diet with fun foods - the kid enjoy a bowl of fruit and yogurt as much as a bowl of ice cream.  However, with my son’s unpredictable energy levels and erradic behavior becoming more constant I have decided to think about his diet a little more.  I am starting with sugar.

Since I started poking around for info about it - I have found some astounding numbers about our culture’s relationship with sugar.  Check this out:

Children do not need to eat large amounts of sugar. In the 1800s, the average American consumed 12 pounds of sugar per year. By 1975, however, after the overwhelming success of the refined-food industry, the 12 pounds had jumped to a world-leading 118 pounds per year, and jumped again to 137.5 pounds per capita (for every man, woman, and child) by 1990. (Food Consumption, Prices and Expenditures, United States Department of Agriculture, 1991).

No wonder we are dealing with obesity issues, no?  I think, as a family, we might think about being more watchful about how much we consume.  This includes juices and sugar found in granola and breads.  It might just do us all some good to take it into consideration - not just the kids.

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Living | 1 Comment »

Raising a Sharp Toothed Carnivore

When my son turned three and after a year of studying anything dinosaur related, he very exuberantly said to me that since he did indeed have sharp teeth that he wasn’t meant to be a vegetarian. The conversation actually went something like this:

Joseph: “Mommy, see my two sharp pointy teeth?”

Me: “Yes, honey, I do”

Joseph: “We can tell carnivore dinosaurs apart from vegetarian ones because they have sharp teeth, right?”

Me: “Yup”

Joseph: “Well, see, if you don’t let me eat meat I will go extinct”

I have been a vegetarian for fourteen years. At first it was adamantly for ethical reasons, now it is a combination of health and the former. I always had this daydream that I would have a lovely vegetarian kitchen with a husband and children who loved my cooking and felt like they were better off for it. Not so. Joseph comes up with repeated scientific facts as to why it is not only lame, but utterly detrimental to his existence for him to not have a slab of meat on a daily basis. My husband — well, he is polite and tolerant and respects my choice in our home. Occasionally, though, he and Joseph will go for a “walk” and come home looking as if they have just been to their first nudie show together, smelling of cheeseburgers. It should be said, at this point, that I have always (when out of the house) let him decide whether or not he wants meat for a meal. I stand my ground when it comes to fast food (thanks to my mom he has developed a penchant for McDonald’s — it is something he knows, by now, that I will not partake in). However, when we go out to the occasional restaurant, despite my alluring descriptions of the mac n’ cheese and steamed broccoli, he always winds up with the grilled chicken or hot dog.

My thwarted attempts aside, I wanted to mention some positive resources for vegetarian mothers. There are some really important books you should read if you are a vegetarian with kids (whether or not they subscribe to your eating philosophy). Vegetarian Baby by Sharon Yntema was my food bible with both of my children. And Super Baby Foods by Ruth Yaron is another with very pro-vegetarian tips and cooking methods. It is important to educate yourself about how to keep a nutritional balance in their diet, vegetarian or not, just as you would for yourself. For me, it was also important to realize that I can live by example but I cannot impose my ideals too too much or else it will be all for naught. Despite his resistance, I feel confidant that one day, even if he isn’t a pacifist animal loving vegetarian like me, that he will at least have the reverence and respect for those that are.

Posted in Nutrition, Parent Education, Healthy Living | 1 Comment »

You Gotta Walk Before You Watch

The BBC News reported on a new shoe that’s supposed to get kids exercising again. What’s the carrot? TV time.

The shoe - dubbed Square-eyes - has a unique insole that records the amount of exercise a child does and converts it into television watching time.

One button on the shoe - the brainchild of a student at west London’s Brunel University - records the number of steps taken by the child over the day.

Another transmits this information to a base station connected to the TV.

Full Story

Posted in Health, Technology, Healthy Living | No Comments »

Being Overweight ‘Can Damage Fertility’

Salon.com reports:

Beer bellies may take a toll on men below the belt, not just around it. Men who weigh too much are more likely to have poor sperm quality, research on nearly 1,600 young Danish men has found. Being too thin is a problem, too.

Women don’t get off the hook. Though it’s long been known that very overweight women have trouble conceiving naturally, a large new study confirms they also are less likely to become pregnant even when embryos are fertilized in lab dishes and placed in their wombs.

Full Story

Posted in Infertility, Healthy Living | No Comments »

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