Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Eating Mindfully

This blog has been dormant for a long time, but from time to time I may post here about things related to food, cooking and eating that occur to me.

I read an interesting short book recently - Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth.  Despite the hyperbolic title, this book has an interesting premise.  Her idea is that most disorders of eating - including over-eating and under-eating, and making poor food choices - has to do with our lack of awareness of our own bodies and our "emotionalizing" our eating.  The solution is mindfulness - this will come as no surprise to those who've employed mindfulness practices in their lives.  Her program involves learning to be aware of our own body and its sensations - so we may know when we're hungry and when we're not, to be mindful in our eating practices (more on that in a minute) and to decouple our emotions from our eating.

Her belief is that many of our dysfunctional eating habits arise from how we related to food in our past, and the role food has played in our emotional life and relationships with other people.  Her wish is for people to stop replaying old, cold emotional loops and just focus on here and now.  The technique to do this is to practice being aware of the emotional loops as they start up, and that awareness, where we observe and experience the emotion, but are separate from it, may be the first step to breaking its hold on our eating patterns.

Being aware of our own bodies and their sensations is a road out of the control/permission cycle experienced by those who diet and those who have eating disorders.  She recommends being friends with your body and being kind to it, as opposed to wanting it to be something else.  And listening to our bodies well enough to know when we (our bodies and not our emotions) are hungry, and what food will meet that need, and when our bodies have eaten enough, leads right to eating in a healthy manner, which she says will lead you to your proper weight.  This makes very good sense to me, and it seems that being aware, and being able to observe rather than just "be" your emotions, could also have useful applications to other addictive or compulsive behaviors.

This book is also not really rules-based, but there are "guidelines", which make very good sense.  Here they are - numbers 2 and 3 have particular importance, I think:

  1. Eat when you are hungry.
  2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment.  This does not include the car.
  3. Eat without distractions.  Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.  [I would add computers, the telephone and texting to this list.]
  4. Eat what your body wants.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied.
  6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

Not a bad prescription, in my opinion.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Love Celeriac

Today I'm making a simple lentil soup - some sauteed chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celeriac, with some thyme, a bay leaf, the lentils and some vegetable stock. I made some tabouli yesterday with a lot of parsley, lemon, good olive oil and chopped scallion, and will have that as a side salad, and there's fresh pineapple for dessert.

I've only recently discovered celeriac, thanks to our weekly vegetable box from the organic farm. Although it's sometimes difficult to find, I've decided I like it much better than the usual stalk celery for any cooked dish - it's easy to dice, has a wonderful subtle celery flavor, and there are none of those blasted strings! It just goes to prove that sometimes very good things come in ugly packages!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Snap Peas, Lemonade and a Dinner Plate

This morning I planted my first set of Sugar Snap Peas! - they're about my favorite vegetable and the season is short. I'll be looking every day to see if they've sprouted. I'll plant some more seed in about a week to 10 days.

Tonight's dinner turned out well - it was simple and easy which suits me fine. I baked a couple of sweet potatoes this morning, and then this evening I reheated them in slices with some maple syrup, steamed some beautiful red kale (the steaming water turns the most amazing bluish-purple) and topped it with vinaigrette, and made a simple bean salad with canned cannellini beans, chopped shallot and Kalamata olives, some pinches of dried oregano and thyme, a heaping spoonful of Dijon mustard and some oil and vinegar dressing. It turned out to be very tasty and satisfying:

I eat some form of legumes - beans, peas, lentils - almost every day, sometimes several times a day. My lifestyle is very active, and those fill me up and keep me full of energy.

And I made some wonderful homemade lemonade - I had an excess of lemons. I combined three cups of water with one cup of lemon juice - it took a lot of lemons - and then added sugar syrup (one cup water and one cup sugar warmed gently until the sugar dissolved) to taste. I have some leftover sugar syrup and unsweetened lemon water in the refrigerator - I'll bet they don't last long!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Colorful Stir-Fry and First Harvest and Seeds

Last night, my daughter and I made stir-fry for dinner. When I'm cooking, I love the ingredients, and how they look, and working with them, almost more than the cooking itself or the ultimate meal. Last night's stir fry was especially colorful, and therefore delightful. I separately blanched some collard greens, to add at the end - I always like to include something "cabbagey". Then the broccoli, including pieces of peeled stem, and carrots went into the pan:

Next came the softer vegetables: red and yellow sweet peppers, and a zucchini I found in the back of the refrigerator:

Finally some onions and garlic; then everything went back into the pan with a little toasted sesame oil and some soy sauce. Instead of serving it over rice, we used soba noodles - I'm getting very fond of their nutty buckwheat taste:

We ended up with a pretty delicious meal, with some fresh strawberries for desert:

* * * * *
Today I had my first small harvest from my garden - some chives to use in stuffed baked potatoes that will be for dinner. I also planted my first seeds - although there was frost on the ground this morning we're supposed to have much warmer temperatures by the end of the week. So far I've planted some radishes - Plum Purple; a row of Arugula; some leeks next to a row that has overwintered and is now greening up - Blue Solaize - I've never direct seeded leeks before and we'll see how they do; chard - Five Color Silverbeet; and 6 varieties of lettuce - Green Oakleaf, Sanguine Ameliore, Bronze Arrowhead, Forellenschuss, Grandpa Admire's and Merveille des Quatres Saisons. All of these seeds (Seed Savers Exchange, one of my favorite sources of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds) are from last year, so we'll have to see how they do germinating. I'll keep reseeding a number of these through April for a staggered harvest. Although it was chilly, it felt great to be out working in the garden!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Starbucks Diet

I've recently fallen into the habit of visiting a local Starbucks on a frequent basis to have a drink and a pastry. Although I enjoy having a tasty treat, I also have been noticing that I've been feeling pretty draggy and tired lately, and my clothes seem a tad tighter than they used to be. Hmm. I suspected a combination of excessive caffeine, together with blood sugar highs and lows brought on by a sugary snack, together with just plain too many calories. So I checked out the Starbucks site for some nutrition information. Here's what I found - I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was.

A 12-oz (tall) mocha without whipped cream and using 2% milk - the way I usually have it - has 200 calories, 6 grams of fat of which 3.5 grams are saturated fat, and 31 grams of carbohydrate, of which 24 grams are sugars, and 95 milligrams of caffeine. A tall (12 oz) cappuccino with 2% milk, which I also like, has only 90 calories, 3.5 grams of fat (2 grams saturated) and 9 grams of carbohydrates (8 grams of which are sugars), as well as 75 milligrams of caffeine. I usually add one packet of sugar (4 grams) to a cappuccino, which ups the carbohydrates to 13 grams and the sugars to 12 grams. That's a lot better than the mocha.

Now for the interesting part - I always knew scones were "pricey" from a dietary point of view, but I had no idea of how expensive they were. My favorite scone, the cranberry orange one, has 470 calories, 17 grams of fat (9 saturated), 69 grams of carbohydrates (27 grams of sugars), and also has 460 milligrams of sodium. That's 26% of the % daily values for a 2,000-calorie diet for fats, 45% of the daily values for saturated fat, and 24% of the daily values for carbohydrates as well as 20% of the daily values for sodium - all in one scone. The blueberry scone is even higher in fat, although slightly lower in carbohydrates.

No wonder my clothes were starting to get tight! If I had a mocha and a cranberry orange scone, that would be 670 calories (33.5% of a 2,000-calorie diet), 23 grams of fat (35%), including 12.5 grams of saturated fat (63%), 100 grams of carbohydrate (35%) including 51 grams of sugars (the equivalent of almost 13 teaspoons of sugar) and 24% of a daily maximum for sodium. Not the best building blocks for a healthy diet!

I think I'll try to go out for coffee less often - I don't need that much caffeine on top of my daily morning coffees at home and tea in the afternoon - and when I do I'll stick to the cappuccino and give the mocha and scone a pass, except on a rare occasion as a treat.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Starting the Gardening Year

I went to my community garden plot this morning - it's about 12' x 24' - and did a little preparation for the year. My chives are making new shoots, some over-wintered leeks are greening up and the garlic is also sprouting. I do almost no tilling - just dump several inches of compost on top of the beds each fall and spring and let the earthworms do the tilling for me - so there were only a few weeds to remove. I need to order some more weed barrier to lay down on the pathways.

I've decided not to grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers or potatoes in my plot this year - we had a bad attack of late blight everywhere in our area last year and the soil is undoubtedly contaminated. I think I'll get some of these growing bags from Gardener's Supply and grow tomatoes, eggplants and peppers on my back patio instead. I'm going to skip the potatoes this year. I still have some plant and seed ordering to do - I'm mostly going to use seeds from last year and just see how they do. One advantage of moving some of the plants to my house is that there's more room for beans - I'd like to grow some additional varieties this year and they take a lot of space. I'm also planning to plant some lettuce, arugula and radish seeds soon, as it seems spring is finally on the way!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Sock!

I finished my first sock yesterday, in a wonderful self-striping yarn (the lovely purple yarn in the upper left corner of the first photo is for one of my next sock projects - who could resist that color?):

The second sock is well on the way, so soon I can wear them around!