Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer in the streets

This post is a quickie. I just wanted to mention the "Summer Streets" program that's currently going on in NYC. For the next two Saturdays in August (16th & 23rd), the city is shutting down Park Avenue/4th Ave from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way up to 72nd Street. That means no cars, buses or taxis allowed from 7am to 1pm. Bloomberg's ushering in runners, walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, you name it. I did a test run myself last Saturday, the first day of the program, and I have to say, it was great to see the city's streets from a whole new perspective. Here's me (post-run, pretty sweaty) in the middle of 4th Avenue.

So get out there and get moving! Finally, a quick note: I'm taking a breather and will be on vaca next week. I promise to return rested, refreshed and ready to blog!

Are you a conscious eater?

I'm reporting back from last Friday's event (better late than never) at the PS1 Urban Farm exhibit where Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, spoke about the current state of our food system in the U.S. If you've read any of Pollan's 5 books or long list of newspaper and magazine articles, you know this guy isn't messing around. Pollan writes and speaks about agriculture, the environment, farming and food systems -- all from "the plant's" perspective -- and all to raise our consciousness around what we're eating. His subtitle of his latest book that quickly has become a mantra in many circles: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pretty powerful words when you take a moment to think about it. Pollan's speech last Friday focused on discussing the power of the plant's point of view and why it can play an important in solving some of our environmental issues.

Aside from the insanely hot room where the lecture was held (we're talking hotter than Bikram yoga on an August evening), Pollan's speech hit home with the audience. He referenced the value of sustainable agriculture, moving away from genetic engineering and "factory farms" that view animals as merely machines (scary to think that's what ends up on your plate)...and moving towards bringing farming back to small, local farmers -- who with a little ingenuity, actually have the capability of feeding a whole lot of people. In basic terms, think ecosystem v. factory. Personally, I'd much rather live in an ecosystem than wonder if I'm actually eating "chicken" and if so, wondering where it came from -- a farm with grass, space and room to walk, or a huge coop where chickens and other animals are packed in like sardines.
How exactly do we achieve the return to an ecosystem -- that's still to be determined (Pollan is indeed working on some pretty significant ideas though, keep your eyes peeled on the New York Times magazine over the next few months).
I'll sign-off with my favorite quote of the evening: "There are ways to get what we need and leave nature in better shape than when we found it."
Yes, it's somewhat of a broad quote, but you can certainly start small and take baby steps to make a difference. For me, that means purchasing the majority of my fruits, vegetables, eggs and poultry at my local farmer's market. I have a better understanding of where my food is coming from and how it was raised or produced. If a greenmarket isn't an option for you, you could simply start by looking for 'locally-grown' items at your neighborhood grocery store.
So my question to you all is, what would you want to change about the way you eat -- how would you "vote with your fork"?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What are we really eating?

Not that it's a huge surprise, but there never ceases to be a lack of nutrition and health news...and this week was certainly par for the course. I'll leave you with 2 quick mentions and let you read for yourself. (and no, the New York Times is not my only source of news, they're just always publishing great things to blog about!).

1. "The Overflowing Dinner Plate" -- I found this recent NY Times article and the crazy display of metrics attached to it to be fascinating, go ahead, call me a nerd. The article looks at what (and how much) Americans were in eating in 1970 v. what we eat today. Shocking statistics -- actually, they're really not all that shocking if you think about the obesity epedemic we're dealing with these days. In 1970, we consumed an average of 16.4 pounds of food a week. Today, we're talking 17.8 pounds of food per week. Crazy to think that in 1980, 15% of U.S. citizens were obese according to the CDC. As of 2007 however, that number sky-rocketed to well over 30% of the population -- with over 66% of the population hitting 'overweight' status. Any correlation to a serious increase in portion sizes and a +353% increase in the amount of corn syrup we consume each year? Hmm...could definitely be two of a plate-full of contributing factors. Anyhow, I thought the graphic (below) was pretty interesting. What's on your plate these days?

2. As a follow up to my recent post on the 'latest and greatest diet study,' the diet wars drudge on. Dr. Dean Ornish, a nutrition and diet expert and professor at the University of California, San Fran comments on the recent Israeli study that found an "Atkins-like" diet shed new light on potential cholesterol-lowering capabilities of saturated fat and proved to have benefit for weight loss (remember -- this is the study that had participants eating a vegetarian form of the Atkins diet). Ornish decodes the study and reminds us of the basic tenets of healthy eating -- eating well and keeping the weight OFF. He'll address the scientific validity of the controversial study in weeks to come (don't worry, I'll blog about that too!). One of my favorite quotes from the story:
"What matters most is a person’s overall way of eating and living. If you indulge yourself one day, eat healthier the next. Otherwise, if it’s a diet you go on, it’s a diet you go off. Even more than feeling healthy, most people want to feel free and in control. This also gets away from moral judgments about food. It’s a small step from eating “bad food” to thinking of yourself as a “bad person,” and no one wants that. Food is to be enjoyed. Pleasure is sustainable; feeling deprived and controlled is not."

Next up: I'm going to hear Mr. Michael Pollan, author of The Ominvore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food tomorrow evening. Check out what he's got to say early next week!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bouncing back from a bender!

I hate Mondays. Ok, hate is a strong word, but after a long week and an even longer weekend, Monday morning isn't always something I look forward to (as much as I adore my job!). Here's a breakdown of the past 5 days:
Thursday -- Birthday. It's a new decade for me people...need I say more? Awesome, delicious, long and relaxing birthday dinner with my girlfriends at Rayuela in the Lower East Side, sort of a pan-Latino mix with great seafood and possibly the best lobster ceviche I've ever tasted. And of course the birthday girl had a few bites of cake...well, cake wasn't on the menu, but a few spoonfuls of chocolate mousse is a close second (see picture at left, a log-like take on chocolate mousse, darn tasty).
Friday -- long car ride to DC for the weekend. Caught up with close friends over dinner-- a salad, half a chicken burrito and a glass of red wine.
Saturday -- friend from college's baby shower. Lite brunch food and babies go well together! Later that evening, a nice dinner out with my family in DC -- salad with dried cherries and a sprinkle of blue cheese along with a halibut entree. (thankfully this multi-day/meal birthday celebration only occurs once a year!). Met back up with friends for a drink.
Sunday -- friend from college's bridal shower (different friend, we just like to jam-pack weekends every so often!). Lunch and homemade orange sorbet (unbelievably light and refreshing...and served in a scooped out orange rind!) LONG drive back to NYC. I have no love for the Jersey Turnpike. Lame attempt to catch up on sleep and go to bed 'early'.
Monday -- recovering and ligthening up my plate a little

As you can see, it's been quite an eventful past few days. We all have heftier eating or traveling weekends now and then, and once in a while, a bender of a night thanks to one too many margaritas or glasses of wine. How do you handle it without wrecking havoc on the scale? A small secret called PACING! You're heading into a long weekend, you recognize this so take a second to think before your fork dives in at every meal. Here are a few quick tips for social-heavy weekends and getting back into your groove:

1. choose 1 meal (not 5) to live a little, try something new and exciting
2. portions - do your damnest to watch em at meals, restaurants typically serve 2-3 times what a normal serving should be!
3. alcohol - just watch the intake (do you seriously need that 4th vodka and soda?), sip slow and drink some water over the course of the evening to stay decently hydrated
4. the best way to bounce back from a heavy night out with a healthy breakfast and lunch, I swear.
5. lighten it up come Monday morning -- you're back home and your normal routine is back on track. Lots of water, fresh fruits and veggies. skim back on eating out this week and be mindful of working portions back down to their normal state...your stomach often expands a little after heavier weekends/holidays etc and you may find you're able to eat more food than usual.