Tag Archives: Food

Local Food, Thame Style

Today started out with a hot chocolate at what has already become my favorite cafe in Thame. Accompanied by a cherry and almond bar and a good book, I could have stayed there all morning. Instead, I got to pretend I was house hunting as I accompanied A on a tour of two estates. Driving around the countryside is at once spellbinding and nauseating…I cannot quite get used to riding on the wrong side of the road.

We decided that both of the houses were not quite right, but it was fun to imagine the lawn parties and croquet games one could play on the expansive grounds. I could almost picture the game of lawn tennis that might have been played by ladies in long skirts and fabulous hats while the men discussed politics and smoked their pipes.

The highlight of my day was strolling around the Thame Food Festival, scheduled in my honor of course. It is not unlike the Grower’s Market in my own town, but there was lots more tasting and the addition of food stands. As one should when in England, we stopped for a spot of tea and enjoyed the sunshine.

I know that Paella is not a traditional English food, but it was made from local ingredients, ok?

Starting my trip this way is perfect. I get to adjust to the time change and ease my way into my trip. I get woken by friends who have already learned how I take my tea and bring me a cup to start my day. I get to enjoy the pace of a local weekend with friends and plan for my upcoming days as a busy tourist. I only hope that I make friends feel as welcome when they visit me.

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But What About the Fruits & Vegetables?

Common wisdom says that it takes 30 days to create a new habit.

Self-help books and websites consistently state that this is the time frame humans need for a new behavior to take hold but they never cite a source.  Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find any research to support the 30-day-to-habit hypothesis (ok, I didn’t look too hard, but I did look).

Recent research by folks at the College of London, in fact, found that the average time to for a new behavior to feel automatic was 66 days.  In addition, there was significant variation in how long it took for a habit to take hold, from 18 days up to 254 days.

Before you get any grand ideas, let me make it clear right now that I’m talking about eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day – my January resolution. I have no plans of becoming a teetotaler, I promise.

So how did I do in January? And what side of this curve am I on?

As it turns out, I ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day in January and I did not find it difficult to do.  It was almost as if I turned a switch and it just happened.  Now that it’s February though, am I still doing it?

Mostly, YES.  It’s February 10th and I’ve eaten at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for eight out of nine days. My one day ‘off’ was  yesterday, and I still ate four servings of fruits and vegetables.  (I also had a hot dog and a pretzel at market and some pizza for dinner.  Hey, I’m not perfect!)

I would not say my fruit and veggie behavior is yet automatic.  I’m still relying on some of the tools I implemented in January to make it happen.  If I were to rate how automatic my chosen behavior feels right now on a scale of 1 to ten (where 1 is not at all, and ten is I do it without thinking), I would say I’m at about 6 or 7.  This is definite progress, and I plan to continue this resolution indefinitely – it just doesn’t seem like a behavior worth giving up.

For the curious…

How did I create this new habit?

  • Early in the month I did research into what constitutes a ‘serving’ and identified the fruits and vegetables I was most likely to enjoy at this time of year.  Knowing that a variety of colors is also important, I also identified a few dark greens to add to my otherwise colorful vegetable diet (kale, spinach, and broccoli, in particular).  There are tons of resources on the web about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  In particular, I liked the tools on the Cooking Light site, part of their 12-month Health Habits program.
  • Since I am a recovering J, I couldn’t help myself from using the Cooking Light chart to track my daily fruit and vegetable intake.   The visual reminder on my refrigerator helped me to make good choices every time I made a meal or went for a snack.
  • I told everyone I knew about my goal – especially the people I share meals with on a regular basis.  It wasn’t that I expected them to correct my behavior or scold me for making bad choices.  But the pressure of knowing that I had made my goal public helped me to make better choices when out with friends, my most vulnerable situation when it comes to eating healthy.
  • I did not try to start any other food (or drink) related habits or implement any other restrictions on myself during January.  As it turned out, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables (or more) is eating a lot of food.  I did eat other things, and some of them were colossally unhealthy, but the portions were always very small because I ate the healthy stuff first and I got full.  Who knew?
  • Again, I didn’t try to change too much.  I stuck with fruits and vegetables I like and those that are either (a) in season locally or (b) easy to get in high quality form (i.e. no January tomatoes for me).  I am lucky that I actually LIKE fruits and vegetables.
  • I did not give myself a hard time about buying produce that had been trucked from Florida or California.  While I try VERY HARD to eat locally/regionally, part of my problem was that the fruits and vegetables available in PA are so limited this time of year.  I have no trouble eating five servings in July and August.  I had to allow one part of my conscience (the part that wants me to avoid diabetes and heart disease, etc.) to win the argument with the other part of my conscience (the fossil fuels, Shelby!  the earth is crying Shelby!) or I would be frozen in the grocery store debating with myself every time I tried to by an orange.

 

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February is Short for a Reason

A few years ago, I was at my brother’s house for the weekly Sunday Dinner he and his wife share with a group of close friends.  Don’t get confused by the “Sunday” part of this activity – it’s a cocktail party that moves from house to house every week with a full bar and fabulous food (we grew up as Episcopalians, after all).  Anyway, I was talking with one of his friends who wasn’t having a cocktail.  Because that’s unusual among the Sunday Dinner crowd, I asked about it.  And he said, “It’s February.”

He went on to explain that every year he stops drinking for one month, and February is it.

Why February?

“It’s the shortest one.”

Of course.

When pressed for details he explained that the month off was helpful for getting on a healthy track after the indulgent holidays.  Also that he figured if he couldn’t stop drinking for one month a year, he shouldn’t be drinking at all.   Smart idea all around, I thought.  But I’ve never done it.

Why not?

Well, I learned about this in my post-divorce phase of ‘wow, I can have a life and make new friends’ which came after the ‘holy crap I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone or go anywhere’ phase.  I was still nervous about being single for the first time in eighteen years and I wasn’t about to give up my courage-juice.    But it’s been years since my divorce.  I’m happily single, enjoying my life, and feel totally comfortable going out with or without a drink to start my evening.

So there it is.  Welcome to the No-Drink-February!

Those who know I am a Steelers fan may be skeptical about my ability to abstain while watching my favorite team in the SUPER BOWL.  But I’m determined.  Plus, I figure this can’t hurt with the whole ‘finish your thesis’ part of my life right? (that’s for you Joe).

Can I do it?  What do you think?

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The January Resolution: Five a Day

It turns out the resolution I was inspired to make this January was to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  I like to think I eat rather well (don’t we all), but in the winter I get bored quickly with squash and parsnips.  Determined to eat as locally as I can, I just haven’t been getting enough of the good stuff in my diet.  So I allowed myself to purchase some imported produce (no, oranges do not grow in Pennsylvania) and made five-a-day my goal.

P.S. Did you know that fruits and vegetables are no longer in the same part of the Food Pyramid?

(Apparently the government has figured out that if you combine them into one category, people might skip the vegetables altogether.  They might convince themselves that a slice of apple pie, a banana muffin, some strawberry yogurt, and a cup of orange juice was all they needed to get their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables. )

The new Food Pyramid says I should eat:

  • 2-4 servings of fruit a day
  • 2-3 servings of vegetables a day

I didn’t want to be lame and go for the minimum servings (four), but I also knew that as a meat eater and a cheese-lover (I cannot overstate that), I would surely not be able to eat the maximum servings (seven) without also eating way too much food.  Since I’ve been averaging a pathetic two servings, I thought five was a nice goal.

 

 

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