Sunday, September 07, 2014

To market, to market

We have an excellent farmer’s market in our neighborhood. It’s held every Sunday from spring to late fall, and it’s a central gathering place for many people in the neighborhood. We see friends there, hang out on blankets, listen to (usually bluegrass) music. Our daughter gets her face painted there almost every Sunday.

Picked up these babies just this morning
at the farmer's market.
But the real reason to go there is the crazy delicious food. Popsicles, wood-fired pizza, Korean bulgogi buns, burgers, pastries, cured meats, yogurt, cheeses, homemade pasta, bread. But those are nothing compared to the amazing fresh produce. Greens, lettuce, berries, squash, tomatoes, corn, herbs, green beans, potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, peppers … and so on.  The line for the peach stand is always the longest in early summer, and now the same is true for the apple queue. Food just tastes better when it comes from the farmer’s market. (Or I suppose your own garden, but my black thumb makes that a non-starter.) Here’s a cool article I found on what’s good at the farmer’s market right about now.
So many different ways to put a meal together with farmer’s market food. For example, the other day our dinner consisted of corn and sliced salt-and-peppered tomatoes from the neighborhood market. Oh, and there was yummy steak, too, but the veggies were the true stars of the meal.

Here’s an awesome recipe tailor-made to make use of a farmer’s market haul. Need something to wash it down? Use some of that farmer’s market fruit to make this yummy sangria. And a sweet ending using more market fruit.

Next month my family is moving to a new state. I’ve already scoped out the farmer’s market scene, and I’m happy to say there’s one within walking distance to my new home. Market day will continue to be on schedule for a long time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Harry and Me

Guess what Daniel Radcliffe says is one of his favorite drinks? No, it’s not pumpkin juice, or even butter beer. It’s Diet Coke! I knew I liked that guy.

I mean, not only did he play one of the most iconic heroes in literary history (I’m a Harry Potter geek), but he also seems to have emerged from that whole child star treadmill relatively unscathed. He has a new movie out – a rom com. Not sure if I’ll see it, but I think it’s positive for him to branch out into new movie genres. (I like to think I’d be good at advising Hollywood folk on their career decisions.)

Speaking of Harry Potter: I’m currently reading the first of those books to my daughter. At first I hesitated starting this with her while she’s so young (not quite five), but “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (or “Philosopher's Stone” as it’s known in Harry’s home country), starts the series off on a tamer note. The really scary stuff happens further along in the series.
And reading it again brings back all the cool memories I had of reading the books myself. I was an adult when I read them, obviously, but the themes are just so purely universal. Rowling really knows how to write in a way that adults can relate to. And have you heard about this research study that argues the Harry Potter books are great for teaching tolerance? Can’t beat that.

So Danielle Radcliffe loves Diet Coke, I love Diet Coke, I like Daniel Radcliffe, he played Harry Potter, I love Harry Potter and am passing it down to my daughter. Dan, if I ever see you out somewhere, your next Diet Coke’s on me.
Illustration courtesy of Karly Nunez and used under Creative Commons

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Questioning the questioning of research

I read the article “Does Industry Funding Influence Research?” the other day on The Skinny on Low Cal. In the article, Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian, talks about a recent study in a medical journal that “found that participants who consumed artificially sweetened beverages on a reduced calorie diet were just as successful at losing weight in 12 weeks as a group that drank only water.” In fact, the study apparently showed that those who drank artificially sweetened drinks, such as my beloved Diet Coke, actually lost more weight than those who consumed just water.

Neva’s article then turned to look at the media coverage of this study, much of which focused on how the study was funded by the American Beverage Association. Headlines said things like “Industry-funded study implies diet soda is superior to water for weight loss.”

Which made me wonder, why wouldn’t an industry want to learn more about itself, and use its own resources to fund research studies? Neva’s article addressed that this way: “First, there is much industry funding of research. Who else is likely to fund research on a food or ingredient than those who manufacture or grow it? And to say this research is dubious is to imply that these respected researchers are unethical and that the review process for the peer-reviewed journals in which they are published is also suspect.”
That makes sense to me. In fact, according to Neva’s article, there was an actual research study about research studies that covers this whole concept. THAT study looked at the research designs, reporting quality and funding sources of more than 2,500 peer-reviewed research articles from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library (say that five times fast!). The conclusion of this research study about research studies was that “industry funded research reports were no more likely to receive a neutral or negative quality rating than those funded by government sources.”

Here’s my take: I’ve worked for associations for a long time, and have even been involved in coordinating funding of university research studies. Based on my experience, I will say confidently that no self-respecting researcher would want to put their name on a study, no matter how it was funded, if it wasn’t on the up and up. Reputation is everything in the research field.

Photo courtesy of Stefano Bertolotti and used under Creative Commons

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This mama’s patting herself on the back

If you’re like me and you love Diet Coke, then you’ve probably seen this awesome “Summer of Sharing” campaign playing out on the cans of your preferred beverage.

The first one I got said “Share a Diet Coke with Mom.” See? I took a picture of the can here:

I liked the mom mention. I’ve certainly shared Diet Cokes with my mom. And of course, I’m a mom, too. All this got me thinking about how moms (and dads!) are in charge of helping direct their kids toward healthy choices, especially in the food and beverage department. Which got me further thinking about how we do that with our daughter.

We’re lucky that our daughter is a pretty good eater. When she first started eating solid foods, she would eat just about anything. So our natural conclusion was that meant we must be the most awesome parents EVAH!
Alas, then she started developing food preferences, so she wouldn’t eat just anything anymore. Goodbye olives! But still, she has enough range in her diet that we feel pretty good about it. Here’s how we try to keep her on track:
  • We generally stick to whole wheat and whole grain versions of anything carb-y: bread, pasta, tortillas, brown rice, etc.
  • We always have fresh fruit around. The kid really likes any kind of fruit, so that helps. My husband deserves a lot of credit for her love of fruit – it’s one of his go-to snacks, and they eat a lot of fruit together.
  • She’s not as universal in her appreciation of veggies, but we still do okay with a decent variety. We’ve got the orange (carrots, sweet potatoes), green (cucumbers, salad greens, green bell peppers, celery), red (tomatoes, red bell peppers) and yellow (yellow tomatoes, yellow bell peppers) parts of the veggie rainbow covered. We can even get her to eat broccoli sometimes, which is impressive considering her mother does NOT care for the stuff.
  • She also loves dairy! Yogurt (especially the Greek kind), cheese and milk are golden.
  • Protein? Hmmmm … we’re doing okay there. She loves the salty, cured stuff like bacon and salami (hubby’s turned her on to those delights). But she also does well with leaner proteins. We have a lot of chicken and turkey sausage, flank steak, organic chicken and pork tenderloin in our house, and the kid’ll eat them all. Plus, she loves nuts, eggs and beans, so we seem to be doing okay in the non-meat protein area.
  • Do we do treats? Yeah, we do. But in moderation.
  • At restaurants, we do the best we can. Chicken tenders and pizza do happen, but they are generally accompanied by a fruit or veggie, washed down with milk.
So that part of our parenting seems solid! And that right there deserves a Diet Coke shout out. I think I’ll share one with myself right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Exercise for a busy mom on a budget? Here’s what I do

Weight loss = eating right + exercise. Duh! We cover the healthy diet part on this blog all the time (see here and here, for example). Now I’d like to turn to the gettin’-your-body-movin’ part of the math.

Sometimes making exercise happen is easier said than done, especially if you have a little hellion angel around the house. A common excuse for not exercising is, “I don’t have time!” Common responses to this excuse include “You have to make time, get up earlier, make it more of a priority, etc.” I say, tell that to a busy mom! Sometimes advice for how to carve out time for exercise can come across as annoyingly preachy and out-of-touch; I bet that nine times out of ten it comes from non-moms, anyway. I’m not going to go there in this forum.
Another excuse is, “I don’t have anywhere to exercise, and I can’t afford a fancy gym.” Again, any preachy response to this = not cool. How about I just tell you what I do for exercise instead?


Love it! I try to get in some yoga whenever and wherever I can. I’m very lucky that my neighborhood community center offers free yoga classes. Also, there’s a local yoga studio that offers discounted classes – only $5 a class. Maybe you have something like that in your area? I go to the yoga studio at night sometimes when my husband can watch my daughter – it makes for nice mommy-alone time.

Also, our TV cable package offers kid-friendly yoga lessons on-demand. My daughter and I love to do those together. (She likes them so much that she has since taken her own kid-friendly yoga classes!)


Another duh! Walking is free, and you can do it almost anywhere. I work from home, so I’m lucky that it’s pretty easy to squeeze in 20-minute walks here and there. I even have some hand weights I bought at the dollar store that I carry during my walks. Also, we live right near a huge city park, so we walk over there all the time to go to the community farmers’ market, the playground, festivals or any of the other numerous activities held there.

Pool time

Speaking of our nearby city park – it has a public pool that is pretty inexpensive. This year I decided to buy a city recreational facility year pass for just around $100, which gets me into the pool whenever I want. I’m working with my daughter on her swimming, so that provides yet another opportunity for mommy-daughter activity time.

Alternative to a regular gym


That same city pass gets me into the workout room at the local community center; the room has stationary bikes, treadmills, weights, etc. It’s SO much cheaper than paying a monthly fee at a gym. I try to go during the day around lunch time. Not sure, but I bet this kind of inexpensive option might be available in other areas. For example, when I lived in Arlington, VA, years ago, I joined the community center there for really, really cheap. (I’ve also joined the Y in the past – not as cheap as the community center option, but may be less expensive as some of those fancier chain gyms.)

Kids will wear you out!

Playing with my active daughter is fun, and I count it as exercise! In addition to the TV yoga lessons and swimming, here are some of the things we do together:

·         Running up and down stairs in our house – we count each other’s laps!
·         Playing soccer or Frisbee in the background
·         Playing on the playground

Speaking of playgrounds, check out this playground workout.
Anyway, that’s what I do.

Photos courtesy of cryptic_star and Mr.TinDC and used under Creative Commons