Tag Archives: opinions

$2M and food stamps? Here’s my opinion.

19 May

So, you may have seen the story about the Michigan man who won $2 million and continues to use food stamps. I was going to write a whole long soapboxy rant about it but then decided to just write a carefully edited abbreviated soapboxy rant instead.

Yes, per Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp) income requirements, he is still eligible. Yes, this is due to a flaw in the SNAP program. Yes, he followed proper procedure in notifying the state of his winnings. Yes, the state said he could keep his assistance. However, just because there is a flaw in a system doesn’t mean it should be exploited. Especially by someone with $1 million in the bank. It is wrong and it is completely immoral.

Someone like this only fuels the fire for the opponents of SNAP and reaffirms many of the stereotypes that exist about SNAP users. Especially someone who has the good fortune of winning that kind of money and then turns around and says, and I’m paraphrasing, that there’s no way anyone is going to make him feel guilty about continuing to use food stamps. I think that’s the part that gets to me. The lack of remorse at needlessly taking advantage of an already overextended system.

Having spent the majority of my career working with at-risk populations, I have seen my share of system abuse. It infuriates me every time I read or hear of another instance of someone abusing any assistance program because the abusers detract from those who legitimately need the help. What this man is doing is clearly a very egregious instance of abuse and the self-serving, condescending and overt nature with which he is abusing the system makes me want to scream. Please don’t even get me started on his lawyer.

The intent behind SNAP is a noble one—helping those who cannot afford enough food to acquire that food. It is also an amazingly flawed system that is criticized, picked apart, and the source of a great deal of contention. And none of that is without good reason. Open dialogue about these types of programs is necessary. But whatever your opinion of the program requirements and oversight may be, I think we can all agree that this case is a vile display of abuse. And it needs to be stopped.

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Avocado Thursday: Poor avocado pairings

12 Aug

I consider myself an avocado advocate. There are so many wonderful qualities to avocados and they are so versatile to cook with that it’s hard not force avocados into everyone’s diet. I dread the winter when the cost of avocados skyrockets to $1.99 for 1 (yup, you read that right) and I will be forced to eat only one avocado per week. There will be a void in my menu plans when avocados become nonbudget friendly.

That being said, there are just some foods and combinations of foods in which an avocado should never, under any circumstances, exist. For instance:

  1. Avocado and peanut butter. Both avocados and peanut butter are amazingly delicious and wonderful; however, the combination of the two is just gruesome.  The squishiness factor alone makes it inedible.
  2. Avocado milkshakes. Avocado+milk=vomit.
  3. Avocado chocolate cups. Reese’s peanut butter cups are the most delicious candy known to man (and woman) and although the creator of this magical food is a diabolical genius, replacing the peanut butter with avocado is just mean. And enormously foul. And lawsuit worthy.
  4. Avocados and ketchup. Tomatoes and avocados are quite tasty. Adding in vinegar and whatever else goes into ketchup makes it quite frightening.
  5. Avocado cookies. Perhaps the only way to destroy cookies and avocados at the same time.
  6. Avocado jelly beans. And I though the earwax flavored jelly beans were disgusting.
  7. Avocado fruit salad. Avocados are a fruit. This does not mean that they belong in a bowl with bananas, grapes, canteloupe, kiwi or any other fruit.  It looks at the other fruits and thinks “I know we’re family but I don’t really belong here. I’m going to go hang out with the tomato over there on the vegetable tray. It knows how I feel”.
  8. Avocado jerky.  For the vegan hunter.

And the piece de resistance…sardines and avocado sandwiches:

20100112-altonbrown5.jpg

Vile. Just vile. (picture from http://www.seriouseats.com)

Alton Brown, I don’t care how much weight you lost eating these, this is an abomination and abusive to the avocado. I wish there was a way to bring up charges against you for assaulting your taste buds. Forget the fact that sardines are just scary, to torture a poor avocado by making it sit on top of a sardine is just wrong.  I am ashamed of you, Mr. Brown. I thought you knew better.

I’m certain there are more foods that should never be paired with an avocado (avocado martini, anyone?) but these are at the top of the list. Are there any foods you would never pair with an avocado?

Working moms contribute to childhood obesity? Really?!

30 Jun

Today, I read an article on Yahoo! Shine “Are Working Moms Contributing to Childhood Obesity?” What I thought I was going to read was a well-informed, somewhat researched piece on the correlation between working moms and obese children. What I actually read was nothing more than a poor summary of one study conducted by some researchers of 8500 British adults born in 1958.  But this article, and study, have struck a chord with me for the simple fact that I am a working mom.

I could discuss the poor writing and snotty tone of the article such as the first line, which reads ” As if you didn’t already need another excuse to quit that pesky nine to five.”  (The author is right–I don’t need another excuse to quit that pesky nine to five. Unfortunately, I have about an infinte amount of reasons NOT to quit my nine to five.) I won’t, though, because then there wouldn’t be enough room for why this study made me so mad. The basic component of why this article and study made me so angry is this–why do mothers have to take the fall for everything? We already have so much to do and to worry about, why is it ultimately our fault if our kids are obese as adults? Yes, it is up to us to model good eating behaviors. Yes, it is up to us to instill good eating habits in our children when they are young. Yes, it is up to us to teach them the difference between, as Cookie Monster so eloquently puts it, sometimes foods and every day foods. Yes, it is up to us to give them healthy options to eat. And yes, it is up to us to teach them to make good choices. But is it really up to us to police every piece of food that goes into our children’s mouths? Doesn’t there come a time when personal responsibility needs to take over and moms are let off the hook? 

I was not a heavy child. But I have become a heavy adult. I would never, ever blame my mother for my weight issues now. She always cooked dinner and we had plenty of healthy foods in the house. Sure, there was junk food, too, but my mother never forced it down my throat. I made that decision on my own, just as I made poor decisions as a teenager and adult. It is not fair to my mother, who did everything she could to instill good eating habits in me and my sisters, to pin the blame on her for my adult weight issues. And it is not fair to blame mothers who have to work for their children’s obesity.  Doesn’t this study make the assumption that all stay-at-home moms cook and most working moms don’t? Is that really a fair assumption?

No, it’s not. I know plenty of stay-at-home moms who don’t cook healthy meals from scratch and I know plenty of working moms who do. I also know stay-at-home moms with obese kids and working moms with kids who are healthy weight. To make the assumption, as this study did (according to the article that I read), that “children of working parents were given fewer home-cooked meals and had less healthy diets, in general”, is, in my opinion, unfair. We don’t know the circumstances behind why these people didn’t have home-cooked meals. Maybe mom didn’t know how to cook. Maybe mom wasn’t taught proper eating habits and couldn’t pass them along to Junior. Maybe mom couldn’t afford healthy foods (that is a discussion for another time). Or maybe mom didn’t want to cook. Whatever the reason, it is still brutally unfair to  blame only working moms for being a contributing factor to the ongoing obesity epidemic.

The article I read does address the fact that the study did not really discuss lifestyle choices, such as TV and computer time, walking versus driving and portion sizes. And it is crucial that we don’t forget these elements as well. While it’s all fine and dandy to discuss whether mom cooks or not, there are so many other factors at play that have nothing to do with mom’s employment.  So not only does this study fail to make a valid point and only furthers the Mommy Wars (really, what better ammunition for ardent supporters of stay-at-home moms than “Oh, you know if you work, your kid is going to be fat?”) but it neglects important factors that may contribute to obesity. Now that’s good research.

As a working mom, I can say with all honesty that I am doing whatever I can to teach my child to be healthy. I cook at home most nights, I take her grocery shopping with me, treats and sweets are limited and she is encouraged to exercise and play whenever possible. The fact that my daughter is 3 ½ makes it much easier for me to control what she’s doing. But as she gets older, I can only hope that what I’m teaching her will stick and she’ll make good, healthy choices. I refuse to believe, however, that the fact that I have to work will make my daughter obese.  And I think there’s a lot more moms out there just like me.

Please feel free to leave any comments below but please also remember to be respectful.

What the Baltimore Orioles have taught me about weight loss

18 Jun

For those you who don’t follow baseball, the Baltimore Orioles are the worst team in baseball. They stink. Big time. Not only are they in last place, but they have the worst record in baseball. Winning games is virtually impossible for them. Nothing they do works. I know exactly how they feel because I have the same problems trying to lose weight.

Losing weight is a constant struggle for me. No matter how hard I try, like the Orioles, I just can’t win. It’s frustrating and disheartening especially when I try really, really hard and the scale doesn’t budge. I imagine it’s how the Orioles feel, practicing and trying, just see another number added to the “L” column. But there is a positive to all those Ls!  Watching the Orioles lose consistently over the last 13 seasons, I’ve learned some valuable lessons to apply to my weight loss endeavor:

  1.  A support system is key. While the Orioles need good coaching, management and fans, so do those of us trying to lose weight. For me, losing weight is hard to do without a strong support system. I need to surround myself with people who are going to be there to help me along, to revel in my success and comfort me in my losses. I need friends and family to keep me motivated. That support system is what keeps me going; if I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for the people I care about (my “fans”). And quite frankly, a room full of people doing the wave when I step up to a plate would be pretty cool.
  2. A win is still a win even if they come 2 weeks apart. The Orioles have difficulty stringing together more than 2 wins in a row. For me, I can’t lose weight for more than 2 weeks in a row. But just like the Orioles, I need to be happy with the 2 weeks because that’s proof that I can do it right. Then I need to remember what I did and do it again.
  3. Remember past performances. The Orioles didn’t always stink. Back in the 80s, they were good. They even won a World Series! They had Cal Ripkin, Jr! For me, I wasn’t always overweight. There was a time that I lost 30 pounds and I looked good! I wasn’t self-conscious about my appearance or obsessed about my weight. I just did what I had to do; every day I went out there and I won. Just like the Orioles of the 80s. I think we can both do it again. Because a size 6 pants and a World Series ring are the same.
  4. Even if everyone else around you is soaring, don’t give up. The American League East is a tough division. There’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Devil Rays (who knew they’d ever be good?) and the Blue Jays. 3 of 4 of those teams have the best records in baseball. That makes the Orioles look even more pitiful. That’s how weight loss is for me.  Everyone around me has a great record and I’m stuck in the basement with a tiny winning percentage. But just like the Orioles go out there and play every day, through all of their embarrassment, I keep going. Eventually I’ll succeed. I can’t stay in the basement forever. I don’t want to, either. It’s cold down there.
  5. The fundamentals are the most important way to consistent success. Although it’s nice to watch the Orioles absolutely decimate a team on the scoreboard, one big blow-out isn’t going to improve their status. They need focus on the fundamentals of hitting, catching, fielding, pitching and running. Consistency in the fundamentals is a surefire way to success. The same goes for weight loss, except the fundamentals are diet and exercise. If I can’t consistently watch my calorie intake or break a sweat, I’m not going to lose weight. Sure, one week of losing 8 pounds is nice but what about the next week? Small, consistent success building a winning record.

As a lifelong New York Mets fan, I never thought that I’d have anything in common with the Orioles (with the exception of a burning desire to witness the demise of the Yankees). But the more I struggle with losing weight and the more I see the Orioles struggle with winning games, I’ve come to realize that there’s a lot to be learned from the Orioles difficulties.  

So thanks for the life lessons, Baltimore!  They’ve been more helpful than I can express. To return the favor, here’s a ray of optimism from my husband, a die-hard fan: if you reverse your record, it’s the best in baseball!

He ain’t vegan, he’s my husband

9 Jun

In a response to my Rachel Berry is a vegan! OR Why I’m a vegetarian post, reader Martha asked how I feed both myself and my husband when I’m a vegetarian and he is not. I thought that was a great question that warranted its own post.

Most of us are raised to believe that a diet without meat is an incomplete diet. We are taught that there is no way a vegetarian/vegan diet can be healthy, and as a result, numerous health problems ensue. Who wants that, right? So we grow up and when we begin cooking for ourselves, our diets are replete with meat. We seek out other meat eaters (which isn’t too hard) and we happily eat our carcasses in unadulterated bliss. But what happens when one party realizes that chewing on that chicken leg is revolting?

I was faced with that exact scenario when I decided to stop eating meat that lives on land. My husband was absolutely terrified. He had no idea what we were going to eat; after all, how could a diet without animal protein even exist (this was also coming from a man who had not met a vegetable until we started dating)? His anxiety reached an 11. After I explained to him that I was choosing to eat this way, and that I was not going to force him to do the same, his anxiety dialed back to about a 7.  After I explained that most new recipes would not involve tofu, his anxiety scaled back to about a 4.  And after I showed him many of the recipes I wanted to try, his anxiety hovered around 1. But although I was not asking him to stop eating meat, I was still the one responsible for planning and cooking meals, and that made him nervous. I think he thought I was secretly plotting to poison him.

Although his anxiety had subsided, I still had to come up with a way to make him believe that a) I was not trying to poison him and b) we can happily live as a vegetarian (or pescetarian, if you prefer)/nonvegetarian couple. So I devised a four-pronged approach which, two years later, I still use on a weekly basis. It goes like this:

First, I include my husband in the menu planning. We go through my cookbooks and recipes together and he gives his input as to what he’d like to eat. This way he feels like he has some control over what he’s eating, which makes him more apt to try new recipes, including vegetarian and vegan ones. Second, I try to use some veggie protein substitutes in about 3 meals per week. Yes, they’re expensive but my husband still feels like he’s eating meat and I don’t have to sacrifice my conscience. Third, I will cook dishes with the meat cooked separately. For instance, if I make a stir-fry, I will cook a chicken breast in a different pan or if we’re barbecuing, I will make black bean burgers while my husband will make himself a hamburger. And fourth, I’ve done a good job of making vegetarian versions of his favorite dishes such as stuffed shells and pizza (there is a soy pepperoni substitute from Lightlife that is excellent). We’ve struck a balance so that we both get to eat what we want but my husband still supports my vegetarian (or pescetarian, since I still do eat some fish) diet. He’s even come to love some of the vegetarian and vegan recipes that I cook!

This approach worked out well for me because my husband abides by one simple rule when it comes to food: If it tastes good, he’ll eat it. Since I am a fairly decent cook who has an outstanding aptitude for following recipe directions, what I cook usually turns out pretty tasty. And with so many resources available for vegetarian/vegan diets, there’s never a shortage of new recipes to try. The introduction of new dishes helps to stave off food boredom which in turn makes it easier to sustain the balance between our two vastly different diets.

There are many compromises we make in a relationship: seeing an sci-fi/action movie rather than a comedy; squeezing the toothpaste from the middle instead of the bottom; putting peanut butter in the pantry rather than the fridge.  Compromising on these little details is hard, especially when we know we’re right. But in an effort to keep the peace, we do it.  The same applies to eating, or not eating, meat.  A relationship between a meat eater and a vegetarian can work without problems if both parties respect each other’s food choices. The key is working together.

In defense of the cheese sandwich

10 May

I have mentioned several times that I am not a big sandwich person. I’d much rather eat soup or a salad than a sandwich. There are, however, some exceptions. I will eat an ALT (avocado, lettuce and tomato), a Bobbie, and a cheese sandwich.

I absolutely adore cheese sandwiches. I’m fairly certain it stems from my childhood. As a kid, when I couldn’t sleep, my dad would take me into the kitchen and feed me a cheese sandwich while I sat on the counter (as a side note, I still sit on counters whenever possible). So for me, cheese sandwiches are the ultimate comfort food. But there’s so much more to my love affair with the cheese sandwich.

To me, the cheese sandwich is the best kind of sandwich. It’s versatile and delicious. I love all kinds of cheese so I will combine them together on a bread or a roll for a super-sandwich. I love that cheese easily pairs with hummus or mayo and lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, avocados and a variety of other vegetables. It’s a sandwich that is equally good hot or cold. I love it so much that if you ask my husband what the first food I ordered when we went to eat for the first time, he’ll tell you it was grilled cheese (he would be right).

I’m aware that not everyone feels this way. My husband hates cheese sandwiches. He feels that having to eat one is akin to cruel and unusual punishment. He hates them so much, in fact, that he refuses to make them for our daughter (fortunately, this works out well for him as the only sandwich she will eat is pb & j). Sadly, he’s not alone in his thinking.

I recently read an article on Yahoo! Shine where a 2-year-old British boy’s cheese sandwich was taken away from him for not being “healthy” enough; it did not have lettuce or tomato. In early 2009, some school districts were using cheese sandwiches as “punishment” for kids whose parents were delinquent in paying their school lunch bill. These types of actions are giving the cheese sandwich a bad rap. Just as it’s wrong to use food to punish a kid, it’s just as wrong to blame the food.

Believe me, I’m aware that there are much healthier choices than a cheese sandwich. But cheese sandwiches are not in bed with the obesity gods; it takes a lot more than the occasional cheese sandwich to make someone fat. Even if someone, especially a kid, eats a cheese sandwich every day, he’s not destined for a life of cellulite and high cholesterol. While some cheese sandwiches might lead to that, a standard cheese sandwich, paired with a fruit, some carrot sticks or celery sticks and either a cookie or some pretzels is a pretty complete and healthy meal.

So, please, let’s stop using cheese sandwiches as a pawn in the “healthy or not” debate. It’s just a sandwich. A delicious, comforting, inexpensive, wonderful sandwich. Can’t we go after something else? Like Lunchables

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