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Review: 30 Days of Vegetables

October 9, 2015 1 comment

30 days of vegetables

I lasted 26 days.

And it you know, it wasn’t even an agonized “I can’t DO THIS ANYMORE!” kind of failure that dragged me down at the end. Honestly, I forgot. On the 27th day, Monday, August 24, I just plain forgot to eat a vegetable. This was the first day of the last week at Chatham before classes began. There were a million things going on at work. I spent the weekend prior at my boyfriend’s apartment and I usually don’t have much in the way of groceries for the following Monday. I have no idea what I had for lunch that day, nor what I thought about when I had whatever I had for dinner that night. My credit card statement shows that I did not get takeout. Whatever I ate came out of my fridge or cupboards. And the vegetable, which for the previous 3 and a half weeks had every day hung over my head in reminder, until I took my pic and cleaned my bowl, just did not call to me that day. I JUST STRAIGHT UP FORGOT.

And then I looked at my pics for that week and saw I had also managed not to take a pic on Monday, August 17, despite eating some form of vegetable that day, like the grown-up gourmand I was trying to be, and knowing that the set would never be complete anyway, I shrugged, and then I gave up. Because I never really wanted to eat a vegetable.

My experiment had some good results for me: one thing I found was that Birdseye Steamfresh mixes actually made nice office lunches. There’s a small fridge with just enough freezer space to fit one of them, and a microwave to cook it in. I eat a fourth to a third, and save the rest for another day or two in the future. Despite the many nutrients that are no doubt lost in the freezing and microwaving stages, it’s still a richer lunch experience than I usually have (see: cheese sandwiches). A couple days a week I go walk the track at the athletic center on campus and I can tell on which of those days I have had a satisfying lunch and on which of them I haven’t. I also found that having a vegetable on the side of things filled me up much more quickly, which is good, usable knowledge if I am trying to eat less of some of the more delicious and terrible things I regularly eat: red meat, pizza, pasta.

I got used to some of the foods that I ate; those I had never eaten before, and those which I had eaten, but never in a full portion. I’d say I turned a corner on broccoli; I can eat it now, with some hesitation, but I can finish it. Its best presentation is cold and dipped in ranch. Kale and spinach I find I also prefer cold. Salads I can eat quickly, and I needed less from the cheese and crouton families as I went along, though I found that ordering them in restaurants is pointless, because they almost all use iceberg lettuce, which is an abomination.

Not long after my experiment, this article and its rebuttal made the rounds on the web, with their relative interesting points:

Why Salad is So Overrated (The Washington Post, by Tamar Haspel)

A head of iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian (1-liter size: 96 percent water, 4 percent bottle) and is only marginally more nutritious.

Salad Isn’t the Problem (Food 52, by Ali Slagle)

I’d define a salad as any combination of raw and/or cooked ingredients—at least one of which is typically a vegetable—that’s been doused with some sort of dressing. The salad that seems to be standing in for all salads in this article—a lettuce salad with some anemic vegetables—is just one type, and I think we’ve moved beyond this definition.

I get what Haspel is saying and it’s a good reminder for all of us that so many “salad vegetables” like the dreaded iceberg are basically nutritionally empty. They may have no calories, which to our fat-fearing culture screams, “Good for you!” but really it’s doing nothing eating paper wouldn’t also do for you. But then the Slagle article opened my eyes a bit to the idea of just mixing random vegetables together—lettuce not required—and going ahead and calling it a salad. I want to try a lot more of this. Mixes turned out to be the most successful meals I had during my experiment. Even my favorite Birdseye Steamfresh pack was a mix: Asparagus, Gold and White Corn, and Baby Carrots.

Still, ultimately, I never ate anything—and this is largely because of my severe limitations as a cook—that made me say, “This is delicious, and I would eat it even if I didn’t have to.” I will continue to try to crowbar nutritious things into my standard fare, and I will try to be more adventurous with my preparations, and someday I hope to meet that possibly mythical vegetable dish, the As Good As Pizza vegetable dish, or even the As Good As a Kinda Stale Store-Bought Cookie vegetable dish. I’ll keep trying.

Here is a link to pictures of 26 25 days of vegetables.

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A New Challenge

July 29, 2015 3 comments

I’m working full time but not overtime, making a livable wage and taking on new tasks, the type that fall by the wayside when one’s life is in a constant state of stress and upheaval. I.e. my last two years.

Anyway, I’m trying to start exercising regularly and in earnest. My new office is located next door to our university fitness center, which is a major motivator. I’ve been walking the track (about 5000 steps or a full-length podcast) twice a week and I’m getting into swimming. (That’s right—last fall I learned to swim! Finally!) I’d like to do an activity like that 2-3 times a week, just to improve my cardiovascular health, strength, and stamina.

I also need to eat better. Please understand, this is not a promise to “eat healthy.” Such a sweeping reform is surely beyond my emotional or culinary capabilities at this time. I just need to concentrate on balancing my meals a bit better, as recommended by Michelle Obama. The government has abandoned the food pyramid of my youth and now ask us to arrange our meals according to the proportions shown on this plate graphic.

myplate_yellow_vegetables

That quarter-to-third which constitutes the vegetable portion of the meal is routinely ignored in my meal-taking. So, in the interest of taking a significant but achievable step, I am attempting to put something (even if not always in that proportion) in that vegetable spot every day, for the next 30 days. Making this my…

30 days of vegetables

I hasten to add that I will be eating many things in addition to the vegetables: carbs, red meat, candy, processed garbage. And I will be taking baby steps by having a serving of vegetables once every day, not every meal. (Does anyone eat a vegetable at breakfast? I seriously doubt it.)

For accountability, here is photo documentation.

Day 1: Wed. July 29: Sad Desk Salad

sad desk salad2

Comprised of: kale, carrots, bacon bits, croutons, ranch dressing

I finished it, not including a couple of the more mangled-looking carrots. And this was my whole lunch, everybody. Then a meeting next door broke up, and a department director came in and said, “There’s cookies over there, you guys,” and I ran to get one and they were all oatmeal raisin!

The only thing keeping me going is the knowledge that the Mac and Gold truck hits my neighborhood tonight! I will deserve it.

Let’s see how the next 30 days go.