5-12 Servings a Day – Are You Kidding Me?

fruits-and-veggies

fruits-and-veggies

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost four years.  Over that time, I’ve come to learn – through both my own choices and what I hear from others – that all that descriptor really means, from a general standpoint, is “I don’t eat meat.” Vegetarian is definitely not synonymous with vegetables.

I’m the absolute worst for eating enough veggies.  I’m quite fond of kale salads, kale chips, steamed broccoli and spinach, Greek salad…but for some reason, I completely suck when it comes to actually consuming said fondness.

Part of it is the freshness factor, of course.  It’s so much easier to consume large amounts of pasta, canned beans, prepackaged “stuff”, than it is to keep fresh veggies on hand.  Except that’s a bogus excuse, since frozen vegetables are just as healthy, and I live within extremely easy walking distance (think 2 minutes) of a fully stocked grocery store.

But excuses aside, I often find myself wondering why I’m not more adversely affected by my lousy relationship with cruciferous greens. If we’re supposed to be getting 5-12 servings per day, and I’m lucky if I make it to two, why aren’t I jaundiced and weak, prone to illness and fast losing sensation in my extremities?

Let’s explore!

The first thing I notice as I begin my exploration of this infamous Food Guide statement (officially determined in Canada in 1992) is that the “acceptable amount” of fruits and vegetables for a day isn’t really as enormous as I was envisioning.

When prompted, I immediately picture a massive store of edibles; a dining surface full of rainbow-coloured natural foods, with oranges and tomatoes making a rolling run for the edge of the table.

daily-produce-intake
Actually, this looks pretty do-able

According to an article on The Kitchn, which presents a tasty selection of pictures that indicate a day’s worth of produce, that’s not exactly the case.  Look right.  Doesn’t look so bad, does it?

One serving can include one banana, a small apple or 1 cup of leafy greens.  Going by that, one of my monster Greek salads probably totals close to 4 servings – pretty darn near the daily minimum.

Last year, the National Post reported Americans only eat an average of 2.3 servings of fruits and veggies per day.  Apparently Canadians do a little better, with the average canuk knocking back about 3.5 servings per day.  This article also makes the volume a little easier to visualize: they recommend two to three cups per day (about a ½ cup per serving).

I guess, from this quick bout of research, the answer to my question is: I actually do eat more vegetables (servings-wise) than I thought, which might explain why I’m not curled in a ball on the floor, turning grey, or whatever.

I’ve also determined that 5-7 is a more realistic daily intake. I think we get thrown off by the “12”, when it’s really there to reassure us that it’s hard to eat too many veggies in a day.

But still, I want to know what happens if you really don’t, over a long period of time, eat enough (or any) vegetables.

An SFGate article (does it drive anyone else crazy that some sites don’t include when their articles were written?) outlines a number of the health problems that can arise from slacking off on the veggie-noshing. While supplements can help, they shouldn’t be treated as a total alternative.

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Take it easy with this stuff, eh?

For one thing, you can wind up with a host of fun deficiencies. Lacking B-vitamins, for instance, can seriously dial back your energy levels, and without vitamin C our bodies may not heal as quickly as they should.

 

You can muck up your intestines; produce contains an awesome calorie-free (yep!) carbohydrate (aka insoluble fibre) that helps keep ya regular.

You can put your heart at risk if you’re not getting enough potassium – bountiful in spinach, squash, bananas – to balance out the sodium you’re most likely consuming plenty of (because who doesn’t?).  Stroke or high blood pressure, anyone?

And, of course, you can wind up putting on weight. Most of us are more likely to pig out on foods with a higher calorie count if they aren’t partially filling up on low calorie produce.

There are lots of other things that can go wrong when you don’t eat enough produce. Which sucks royally, since I’d much rather chow down on popcorn (uh, corn is a vegetable, right?), mac n’ cheese, and cupcakes, than stringy green stuff.

appetite-2039_640
Mmm, *drool*

But I’d like to live to a ripe old age, and remain relatively healthy while I do it, so for the millionth time, I’ll make that goal to eat more veggies. Blah. Maybe I’ll let myself splurge on my favourites more often: asparagus and Brussel sprouts for example. Better that than a quart of ice cream, right?

~Lou

 

PS: Speaking of popcorn, I recently discovered that a ½ cup of the stuff has about 10% of your recommended iron, a nutrient sometimes lacking in vegetarians.  So, that’s neat.


 

You’re up! What change can you make to get more good stuff into your diet?

Alternate comment prompts: ‘Brag to us about how awesome you are at eating 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day’ or ‘Here’s why I don’t give a crap and shall carry on eating junk food forever.’ FYI: we’re all jealous of those of you who choose the latter option, and you can read this article if you want to “prove” your argument (you’re welcome :P).

 

This blog has gone in so many “new” directions, I don’t even know how to introduce another one.

I started this blog in December of 2011.  In that time, I have written about 90 posts.  That means, on average, I’ve contributed 1.73 blogs per month.

That’s not impressive. It’s actually quite pathetic.

So, I’m embarking on a new mission; a mission that could change the course of …. this blog.

A while ago, I nailed down the reason my blog is so on-again-off-again (or, well, one of the reasons, but I’ve chosen not to delve too deeply into ‘I’m kind of lazy’).  I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I’m one of those people who has a tendency to start a million things, and finish almost none of them.

so many hobbies, so little time
so many hobbies, so little time

I’m not talking about work-related tasks – I’m relentlessly reliable when it comes to something I’m getting paid for.  Unfortunately, I have so many hobbies, interests, and “passions”, that not only do I embark on a new one without fully seeing the previous one through, I also just don’t have time. There truly are too few hours in the day for me to put a decent amount of time into everything I want to tackle.

There’s good and bad to this, right? On the one hand, I have a basic understanding of a vast range of topics, from cannabis to acrylic painting.  These “tiny tidbits of trivia” (as my dad likes to call them) do come in handy, and make it possible for me to carry on vaguely informed conversations with lots of different people, on lots of different subjects.

On the other hand, I doubt I’ll ever be a true “expert” in any one area of interest.  How big of a deal is that? I guess it depends on the interest.

Alright, so considering all that, what’s a blogger to do? Professional blogging advice touts choosing a subject and sticking with it if you want to draw in a good, stable following.  You’ll reach that niche of readers, and if your topic is original enough, they won’t be distracted by another blog (unless they’re like me, in which case they’ll be distracted by blogs on entirely different topics).

But – I’ve come up with an idea.

I know I’m not the only one out there – there are most certainly other weirdos with the “look, a squirrel!” mentality that is charming only to our like-minded fathers and ever-patient significant others.  So, shouldn’t there be blogs out there for us, too?

squirrel
know what I mean?

Therefore, gone are the days of trying to grasp a common thread to run through this site (I mean, just look at the name of the blog – why did it take me so long to get here?).  From now on, I’m writing about whatever the heck I want.

But I also don’t want this to turn into some life’s story, memoir-type thing, where I just talk about my day, or my feelings, or my mild obsessive compulsivity; I am still a journalist at heart.

So instead, you can look forward to researched posts about things that interest me – at that particular moment.  (For example, what exactly are ‘em’ dashes and why does this blogger insist on using them everywhere?) I’ll try to give you a bit of context about why I’m looking into whatever I’m looking into, but sometimes it might just be “cuz.”

New shiny thing-minded people of the world, unite!  And get ready to expand your hoard of practically useless information!

~Lou

 

Up first: a potential way to make myself eat more veggies.

Interlude: Writing when there’s nothing to write about

It doesn’t matter how many blog posts (ok, blog post titles) I read – making myself write even when I have nothing to say is just not something that comes easily to me.

I think I’m one of those people (god, I hope there’s more of us) who has difficulty finding inspiration.  And unfortunately, when that inspiration isn’t forthcoming, I have a tendency to wither a little bit.  I get moody and depressed – I find myself choosing video games over a good book, Pinterest-browsing instead of crafting, scrolling through images rather than editing or creating my own.

I’m ashamed of that, to a certain extent.  I dare to call myself a writer, an artist, a creative, when as soon as the road gets a little rough and rocky, I turn into a couch-curled ball of stagnancy?  Who am I trying to fool?

But all those blog posts are right. (I imagine. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually read one straight through.) In order to be inspired, you must go out and get inspired. Sitting around wishing a poem topic or blog theme or painting will simply come to you is a bit idealistic.

I’m not saying it won’t happen, but if you spend a week waiting for it, just think how much time you’re wasting not hunting down other possibilities. That uninvited inspiration will still surface, eventually, but image all the other inspiring bits and pieces you could get done while waiting on it.

Wherever your inspiration stems from — a well of truth, a stunning muse, a discarded slipper — it’s not going to abandon you or run dry just because in the meantime you’ve gone out in pursuit of other ways to top it up.

There are a million and one excuses: I’ll never do better than this one, there’s cleaning to get done, I just need to sleep in, Friends is on (FYI, if you have enough channels, Friends is always on. Always). And if you’re already shaking your head – no, no, I need this –  even mindful pursuit of those very excuses could wind up inundating you with just the motivation you need.

Well, look at that. I guess something can come of sitting your butt down at the keyboard, even when there’s “nothing to write about.”

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Reconnecting with Yoga

yoga pose smiley

Yoga and I have had a complicated relationship. It’s nothing either one of us has ever done, but…ok, that’s a lie. It’s something I’ve done. Something not at all surprising to anyone who knows me and my propensity for never finishing anything.

I first became acquainted with yoga when I was about sixteen. Once I was over pretending to be a punk rockster, I wholeheartedly – well, halfheartedly – began to embrace everything “hippie”.

Yoga, for me, began with cheap workout DVDs and a little blue book of yoga poses and spaces to write one’s reflections following each practice. Now that you know that little secret about me, it shouldn’t shock you that the fill-in-the-blanks spaces of the book remained largely crisp and clean, free of musings and reminisces.

The little stick figure-led yoga series, however, got a lot of use. I would drag my green yoga mat with its twirly flower embellishment out onto the back lawn and forward-fold and downward-dog to my heart’s content. Until I just didn’t anymore.

You know the drill. Studying, the latest crush, choir practice…basically, life got in the way. The little blue book was eventually relegated to the back of the bookshelf, to gather dust along with DIY Makeup Tips and The Wiccan Bible. I know, I was an odd kid.

But, unlike the many how-to books and flash-in-the-pan interests that have flitted in and out of my line of sight in the past dozen years (think clay sculpting, marathon running, poem memorizing), yoga has had a tendency to meander back in, seemingly at random.

I have expended fitness punch cards on yoga classes, snapped up the First Month Free offer for almost every yoga video website, and vacillated between being able to get my nose to my knee and barely managing to reach my toes.

I should add that throughout most of this aimless wandering, I have sustained a 3-minute, self-altered sun salutation series almost every morning for about eight years. If this sounds impressive, it really shouldn’t. It’s born largely of necessity – a few missed days and my neck and shoulders declare war – and because it is so fast and rarely changes, really doesn’t further my yoga practice. But it’s something, right?

A week ago, though, I snapped up a membership at a great yoga studio a mere five-minute walk from my house. If that, coupled with my recently wide open work schedule, doesn’t remove every conceivable excuse from my well-worn book of excuses, then nothing will.

All the classes I have attended so far have been spectacular – mind-expanding, relaxing, and challenging. I sincerely hope this latest foray into the yogic world will be my last first time, and turn into YTT, experiences in India, and impressive feats of strength and flexibility. Most significantly, though, I want this one, rare thing I’ve felt a connection to for almost half my life to become an intrinsic part of my everyday existence, transforming my mind, my body, my knowledge, and my soul.

I just have to keep chasing it. Practice, practice, practice.

~Lou

Intentions

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In case anyone didn’t notice, yesterday was the first day of 2016. Apparently.

Oh, I knew it.  I heard the thumping bass through the ceiling, from the party one floor up, and the loud voices in the hallway at 10:30, just before I went to bed.  But New Years hasn’t really been a big deal to me since I stopped going to the parties and crossing my fingers that my crush would kiss me at midnight.  Ah, youth.

I’ve never really gotten into the whole Resolutions thing, for two reasons: First, I don’t think setting a bunch of goals essentially meant to guilt you into doing better, just because it’s January 1st, is the best way to go at it.  It’s kind of like Valentine’s Day; shouldn’t we be showing our partner we love them/trying to better ourselves every day?

Second, let’s be honest. I absolutely blow at sticking to goals. Like, seriously.  I get things done with time to spare, but it’s as if writing it down and making it official just blows that one completely. Too much pressure, maybe?

But setting “Intentions”? Now, that’s something I can get behind.

Ok, seriously, it’s like the exact same thing.  There’s no Resolution Ruler who says your goals have to be tangible tasks like Get Published, Read 25 Books, Do Yoga Every Day.  Your list can easily have more general instructions:  Intentions.

The two yoga classes I’ve taken since the new year began both embraced this same theme. All-encompassing guidelines around which you can – if you so choose – structure the coming year.  Or, preferably, the rest of your life.

Bits of wisdom like “Do less, and be more” or “Judge less, and appreciate more” or “Take less, and give more”.

I think most people have heard these quotes before.  I’m not even sure there’s a definite source for them, and that’s a pretty good sign of their lasting significance.

My own, overarching intention for the year? Be happy, and spread happy. I’ve got a good start on my own happiness – no more desk job, actually making an income doing what I love, residing in what’s probably the most beautiful place in the country.

So, as I continue along that path, I figure I kind of owe it to this universe that’s given me so much, to give something back (see wisdom #3).

Wishing you all (1) the momentum to pursue your happiness this year, and (2) all the happiness you desire.

~Lou

The Road to Freelancing: Inactivity Breeds Inactivty

sloth

Vacation can be a wonderful thing.  A week or two of being productive in our own ways – knitting, painting, jogging, catching up on missed episodes of your favourite shows – can often be just what we need to jumpstart our career-related productivity.  We return to our desk refreshed and renewed, with a whole new cheerful vigor to our work ethic.  For a few days, anyway.

But there’s another, darker side to vacation.  Holidays, particularly those that are more or less open-ended, can lead to a dangerous downward spiral of inactivity. Those unpaid projects – in my case crochet scarves, swimming, and sewing random things – can shift from time-fillers to time-wasters.  Why work on that article, when instead I can whip up another toque, or splash around in zero gravity for awhile?

know why, of course.  Because by allowing these hobbies to take over my life, I will very quickly run short of savings and be forced to apply to the Starbucks located up the street.

I’m exaggerating a little bit. Freelancing is great, and my current clients have no complaints about my work ethic.  But the thing is, when its up to me to choose when I work, and for how long, sometimes I can get a bit …let’s call it lazy.  I end up starting to work at five in the evening, and only because I have to put in so many hours today and I’m swiftly running out of said hours.

Picking when I get to work is lovely, to be honest, especially in the dead of winter when you don’t go out past four pm unless you want to come home in the dark.  So, I do all my errands while most other people are at work (though, geez, it’s still damn busy out there – doesn’t anyone work anymore?!), and save my buckling down for the after-hours.

Usually.

There’s another small issue involved in doling out my own work schedule.  I have a really short attention span, which translates to splitting my working day into multiple sessions.

This is great, because it means I’m actually working for that full one-hour period – I know I get an hour off after that, so why not?

But often this flimsy schedule, combined with the fact that I only work “part-time” right now, leads to day in and day out of three-ish hour workdays – for weeks.

And as much as that probably sounds amazing to  people working 8-hour shifts at a desk or behind a counter (believe me, I was right there with you 2 months ago), you’d be amazed at how even short shifts can wear on you if you don’t take a day off now and then.

I know – it sounds incredibly whiny, and I almost want to slap myself, but I’m just telling it like it is.

So, the takeaway from this installment of The Road to Freelancing is two-fold:

  1. Holidays are great, but if they aren’t strictly limited, they might just cling on.
  2. Forty hours of work still deserves a day off, even if it was spread out over 10 days…

Tune in next time, to hear all about how I tried to stick to an 8-hour schedule and failed miserably! (Episode currently in production…)  You can check out the first post in this series (which should be in part VI or so by now but, well, lazy) here.

 

~Lou

The Best Place on Earth

I don’t want to be that person.

You know the one.  The person who quickly becomes obnoxious from all their bragging and goings on about the wonderful, beautiful, spectacularly flawless place in which they live; the place that is better than any of the other places in all the world and extended universe.  That person.

It starts with a few pretty pictures on the Instagram feed, which are quickly disseminated to Twitter and Facebook. Comments begin rolling in, like “Wow, beautiful!” or “I’m so jealous!”.  These kind words go straight to the head, and soon the pictures are popping up every hour on the hour, accompanied by long, gushing captions detailing the intricacies of this one-of-a-kind oasis.

That’s when the encouraging comments from friends begin to die down.  A person can only use so many permutations of the phrase “Golly that’s pretty” before they just give up all together, possibly even going so far as to block the perpetrator from their news feed or push that ever-ominous “unfollow” button.

But does this cut back on the headache-inducing influx of images? Oh no.  It makes no difference, except that each and every 500-word caption now includes precisely 73 well-researched hashtags guaranteed to generate the most views, likes, and praise possible.

The number of followers actually known to the “photographer” may dwindle, but this isn’t a problem, as they are now followed by plenty of new #paradise and #blessed enthusiasts more than willing to continue feeding that increasingly inflated noggin.

Ah, the glories of social media.  All the disinterest and exasperation of friends without any of that pesky interaction.


I jest. Of course I jest.

But I mention all this as recognition of the fact that I am fast becoming one of those people.

Having recently relocated to beautiful, spectacular, wonderful Victoria, British Columbia, I am absolutely inundated with stunning views and exciting visuals, from the 19th century architecture, to the crashing waves, to the blue herons perched on rock outcroppings.

I could post a new, gorgeous picture every twenty-five minutes, if I was so inclined.  At this point, I’m not. I’m still in the mood to keep these amazing vistas all to myself, posting only the occasional snapshot depicting sun glinting off the rippling waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

But I am a bit concerned I might get there; might become that nauseating followee on your page that has posted six dozen pictures of the same. damn. beach in the past week.

I’ll make you this promise, though: If I do find myself becoming that person, I’ll provide a disclaimer offering anyone the chance to abandon ship before the onslaught begins.

You’re welcome.

~Lou

James Bay, Victoria, shoreline
Don’t worry, I’ve limited myself to just two. The shoreline…
victoria2
…and the horizon. Done. Promise.