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Posts from the ‘Diet and Food’ Category

Green Beanery.

Winter started around November of last year and continued onward with a vengeance until yesterday morning, when “42 degrees and sunny” seemed to constitute as “spring.”  The snow is all but melted (except for a few very stubborn igloos built by resourceful squirrels), so Birdy and I took advantage of the sunshine yesterday to explore our backyard.

We moved house several months ago, just before the winter came crashing in, so we don’t know much about what’s actually outside.  For all we knew, there was a hole that went straight through to Renza’s house.  We did know that there was a shed with a fenced in garden-looking area, and my hope was that it would be useable for a vegetable garden.

So yesterday, my daughter and I went out with our rakes, clippers, and yard refuse bags to find out what was underneath all the pine needles.  After a bit of raking and cleaning up, we saw that the garden was decently set up for planting.

“Good thing!  Because we have all those green beans, Mom!”

Oh hell yes we have green beans.

A few weeks ago, she and I took a crack at starting some seedlings in the house, preparing for the eventual moment when Jack Frost would loosen his grip on New England and we could plant our starter garden outside.  We bought one of those seedling trays from Home Depot and with steady preschool hands, my kid planted seed after seed from packets she picked out at the store.  (I didn’t want to stifle her excitement, so we are growing all kinds of stuff – green beans, cucumbers, eggplant, watermelon, carrots, and a woman from the ground.  It’s a festival of greenery.)

Now, several weeks later, the seedlings are starting to sprout.  We moved them to bigger pots so they could become more badass, and in a week or two, we’ll move them outside into the garden.

I’ve always wanted to have a vegetable garden, but needed a partner to help me tend the feeble crop.  (Chris is not a gardener.  He mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, and deals with any snakes/spiders/chupacabra we might stumble upon in the yard, but he’s not into weeding.)  After watching my kid diligently don her gardening gloves and rake, weed, and create impromptu shelters for any worm we came across, I realized I have my vegetable gardening partner now.

Here’s hoping I can go from seed to plate without screwing it up.  But so far, we’re having fun,

 

Egg Roll.

The trappings of Easter baskets can be a real kick in the ass for me, diabetes-wise.  Jellybeans, chocolate eggs, those Cadbury mini eggs of doom … all delicious, but rarely worth it for me because all of these high-sugar indulgences make for gross blood sugars.

Thankfully, the most mild of milds on my blood sugars are eggs.  And Easter isn’t short on eggs of the hard-boiled and highly decorative type.

Eastaaaaah.

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Do you want a jellybean, Mom?”

“No thank you.”

“But you can take insulin for the jellybean?”  My daughter paused a minute.  “OOOH! Or you could have a hard boiled eggie instead!” And she’s fine with that suggestion, only faltering slightly when she sees that the egg dye leaked through the shell a bit during the coloring process, tie-dying the hard-boiled egg white.

“Does the color part need insulin?” she asks.

Learning about diabetes, egg by egg, bird by bird.

Looking Back: Visual Reminders.

Nothing helps remind me more about the importance of being familiar with serving sizes and what they look like than being on the road for a few days.  Meals away from the comfort and familiarity of my kitchen make for some guesswork, and these last few days have shown me that I could use a refresher on serving sizes.  Here’s a look back at a post from 2012 about keeping your eye trained as to how “half a cup” really shapes up.

*   *   *

A deck of cards.  A baseball.  A pair of dice and you only look at one of them. (Sorry for the clumsiness; I think it’s weird to write “A die.” as a sentence.  Looks odd.)  A tennis ball.   A hockey puck.

The things that health-related articles use as “visual cues” for portion sizes and serving sizes makes me wish I was more athletic, because then I’d have a really strong feel for the size of these different balls, etc.  (Sidenote:  Hey. Ever write something you want to immediately delete but then you keep it and just wish your brain was less daft?)  But these visual cue things are helpful for me, because if I don’t take note of just how big “one small apple” really is, it’s easy to lose track of how much I’m eating.  I need to constantly refresh my eyes on serving sizes, which in turn helps me better estimate carbs when I’m SWAG (aka Scientific, Wild-Ass Guessing)’ing it.

(Second sidenote:  The hamburger pictured here looks exactly like a fudge-drizzled chocolate cookie, which is making my brain very confused.)

Which is what I spent part of my morning doing today:  busting out the measuring cups in my house and reminding myself what certain foods look like when properly measured out.  I’m not shooting for serving sizes or anything FDA official.  I needed to do this purely for carb assessment reasons.  What does 35 grams worth of Rice Chex measure out to look like?  How much salad dressing is 10 grams of carbs?  Brain, be reminded of what 28 carbs-worth of banana goodness looks like!!

Birdy thought I was a basketcase this morning, measuring things out and then putting them back.  “No eat banana, Mama?”  “No more cereal and milk, Mama?”  “That chicken is very good, right, Mama?” By the time I started eye-balling the lunch meat and measuring it on our kitchen scale, she threw her hands up in disgust and went to find her Thomas trains.  (Tertiary sidenote:  Spencer, the silver, streamlined diesel train, is the same size as 15 grams worth of banana, dagnabit.)

But now my brain is brought back to reality.  Less guesstimating and more true and proper estimating, which should help me fine-tune my boluses a touch.  Reminders like this are helpful in keeping me from sliding down that slippery slope of eating 18 lb apples and bathtubs full of Golden Grahams.

(Last sidenote:  I’m sorry that only 2/3 of this post made sense.)

 

McDave from the Plane.

“Were you saving these seats for us?”

I travel regularly for work, and because I’m usually on the road without my family, I end up in various discussions with strangers to fill the time.  Since my days as a breakfast waitress in college, I’ve always enjoyed those snippets of single-serving conversations.  Airplane travel can offer insight at 30,000 feet (sometimes from the pilot).

“Yes.  I’ve been waiting for you guys for hours,” I replied, standing up so that the couple could join me in row 9.

This was my introduction to Dave and his lovely wife.  Throughout the course of the flight from Orlando back up to Providence yesterday, I spent some quality time talking with these two and over-sharing to a frightening degree.

We talked about flying, and how none of us cared for it.  We talked about the Patriots and how mother  (and his wife) are hardcore fans.  We talked about how his daughter has been an extra in several films and TV shows.  And we talked a lot about food.  After a discussion about what I do for work and what brought me into the diabetes space (see also:  diagnosed 28 years ago, felt alone, founded a blog, found some friends), Dave admitted that his own diet could use a shift in priorities.

“We could eat better,” he said.

“We could eat a LOT better,” his wife said from the window seat, smiling ruefully.

“Everyone could eat better, but our fast-food society doesn’t exactly make it easy.  You have to go above and beyond to make sure you aren’t eating junk.  Junk is mainstream!  Think about how screwed up our perception of ‘breakfast’ is; we dump sugary syrup onto pastry-esque pancakes and call it a healthy meal.  That’s not a meal … it’s dessert!”  They nodded, and I realized I was on a mile-high soapbox.  “I’m so sorry.  Food stuff makes me ranty sometimes.  Like when I think about the kinds of foods marketed towards my daughter.  Chicken nuggets and french fries and sugar cererals.  Stuff is gross.”

“So she’s never had a Happy Meal from McDonald’s?” asked Dave, half mocking me, half actually asking.

“She’s had McDonald’s food two or three times in her life, but that’s it.  And no, she’s never had a Happy Meal.”

He laughed.  “You’re missing the chance to make her happy!  But not the food – I get that you don’t want to give her the food.  I used to make my own Happy Meals for my daughters.  I’d take a toy that they hadn’t played with in ages and pack it in with their lunch.  Instant Happy Meal!”

“That’s a good idea.  I like that.”

“Yeah.  Now you can write about it in your blog, right?  I want to be in there.  People would want to read more about me.”

His comments made me laugh.  “Sure.  I’ll write about you.  But the blog post has to have some kind of resolution, right?  Where we both promise to make changes and then we hold one another accountable?  Or is that taking it too far?” I asked him.

Dave thought for a minute.  “I can do that.  Listen, my wife and I will make a change.  We promise to eat something green with every meal.  A vegetable, like spinach or broccoli or squash.  Except that squash isn’t green, so we’ll have to be flexible with the color requirement.  But a vegetable with every meal.”  He made a fist and jabbed it towards the air with conviction.  “A vegetable with every meal!”

“And I promise to make my kid a happy meal, like the one you described.”

He handed me his business card and I promised to send him a link to the post once it was live.  (Hi, Dave!)  The plane landed and we all went our separate ways, resolute in our decision to make positive changes.

This morning, as I packed Birdy’s lunch for preschool, I put one of her small, forgotten toys in the lunch bag, alongside her healthy food options (and a crappy drawing of Loopy drinking a mug of steaming coffee).  I wondered what kind of vegetable Dave managed to work into his breakfast that morning, and smiled.

What’s the point of going through life without ever making eye contact, or making a connection?  Single-serving or not, I’m better for having sat next to Dave.

Practice Turkey.

Chris and I are both from big families with piles of aunts and uncles and cousins at every birthday party.  Part of being part of a flurry of people means big holiday gatherings, and Chris and I are prepping ourselves to start hosting some of the holidays.

Problem is, I’m a terrible cook.  Or, better stated:  an inexperienced cook.  Cooking hasn’t ever brought me joy or satisfaction, and I’m not interested in the time it takes to perfect a recipe.  I cook for form and functionality (read: make sure my family doesn’t survive on garlic salt and overripe bananas), not for fun.  I’m not good at making the effort to learn.

But if we want to start hosting holidays, we need to learn how to prepare some of the main courses.  Which brings me to the Practice Turkey:

Practice Turkey is currently taking up residence in our freezer, and my goal is to use him to teach myself how to properly prepare a whole turkey.  (Sidebar:  Animal is in our freezer because Birdy is afraid of him, but refuses to let us donate him or throw him out.  She wants him in the house, but entirely contained.  So he lives in our freezer and has been there about a year.  I always forget that he’s in there, until someone comes over to visit, opens the freezer, and subsequently goes, “OOH!!”) In the next week, my plan is to practice my culinary witchcraft on Practice Turkey so that when we host holidays this year, I’m not in a huge panic because I can be all, “Oh, the turkey?  I know how to do that.  I’m all over that!”

I need to actually do it in order to make sure I can do it.

Same goes for technology hiccups in my diabetes management plan.  I use an insulin pump and a CGM (hellooooo, disclosures), and with that convenience and data comes an influx of autonomy and the sacrifice of my autonomy, if that makes sense.  The devices give me a lot of flexibility and freedom, but if I rely on them too heavily, I forget how to manage my diabetes on my own.

I need to be my own Practice Turkey, relearning the details of diabetes.  I need to make sure I know how to calculate a bolus, check my blood sugar regularly by finger prick, and finagle basal insulin doses if my pump ever breaks, or if I ever want to take a CGM break, or if my will to wear devices breaks a little.  And over the last week, I’ve been on a bit of a device break (thank you, winter skin issues), realizing once again that a refresher course on how to drive the stick-shift version of my diabetes (so to speak) helps me take better care of myself overall.  Taking an injection before I eat makes me think twice about the food I’m putting into my body, and also help me remember to pre-bolus (because it’s a process, not just the push of a button).  Using the treadmill instead of a correction bolus to fix a 180 mg/dL keeps exercise fresh in my mind.  3 am checks aren’t always necessary, but doing a few of them helps me spot-check my overnight basal rates.  I appreciate my devices, but I needed a reminder on what they do for me, and how to continue to do for myself.

Practice (turkey) makes perfect.

[Also, today has been unofficially designated as a “day to check in” (hat tip to Chris Snider) with the DOC blogs that we’re reading.  I read a lot of diabetes blogs, but I don’t often comment because I usually want to say something meaningful, instead of “I like your post.”  (But I do like your post!)  But instead of finding that meaningful comment, I usually roll on and forget to return to comment.  NOT TODAY!  Today I’m commenting on every blog I read, because that’s the name of the game.  I love this community, and today I’ll show that through comments.  So please – if you’re here, share what your favorite word is, or just say hello.  And thanks for being here.]

Spinach and Mushroom Fritatta.

I can’t cook.  Except when I can.

Turns out following a recipe is a helpful way to make a graceful transition between “fridge full of ingredients” and “actual, edible outcome.”  And a recipe that’s reasonably low in carbs, high in eggs (I frigging love eggs), and tastes good works for me.  Stolen from AllRecipes, I tweaked my version of this mushroom and spinach fritatta a little bit based on what was in the house and what I wanted in my face:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of fresh, chopped spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl (preferably one that the cats haven’t been eating from), whisk the eggs and ricotta cheese together until smooth.  Then mix in the seasonings, then the spinach, and then the mushrooms.  The whole bowl sholud become a weird, pudding-ish mixture of breakfast bits.

Coat a 9-inch pie plate with a little bit of olive oil to keep the fritatta from sticking and then pour in the egg and spinach mixture.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is solid.  For me, it took 32 minutes to cook in full, and I let it sit for half an hour before we cut it and served it.  (I think if we cut it up any earlier, it wouldn’t have settled and had been a little soggy.)

Carb-wise (and according to the AllRecipes version), this dish serves up about 6 grams of carbs per slice.

The verdict at the brunch we hosted was that this spinach and mushroom fritatta was a hit.  “It’s delicious,” said one of our friends.  And that’s when I refused to tell them I made it, because I didn’t want my reputation to cause them to second guess their taste buds.

 

 

Cutting Back on Artificial Sweeteners.

My sweet tooth is completely jacked up.

Bypassing the dessert table isn’t a tough choice.  I can skip the brownies and pie since the Great Palette Change of 2010 (when I was pregnant and my body decided that chocolate was gross and seafood was suddenly on the approved list) and now that I’ve been off the gluten stuff since August of last year, avoiding sweet treats has been a no-brainer (because if I have gluten, my body becomes a vessel of extreme bloat – no effing thank you).

But oh holy cow do I love coffee, and the amount of sweetener I would add to a cup of coffee was abysmal.

I think my taste buds ended up a little warped as a result of drinking diet soda when I was a kid.  After my diabetes diagnosis in 1986, Equal replaced sugar in my house, and the sweet power of Equal is eleven billion times sweeter than regular sugar.  (Not entirely true – 160-220 times sweeter than sugar seems to be the information I found online.  Correct me if I’m wrong, please?)  Convincing my tongue that less sweet is sweet enough has taken some time.

Over the last few months, I’ve been actively cutting back the amount of artificial sweetener I’m cramming into my coffee cup.  At one point, I was using three Splenda in one iced coffee, and for me that felt like way too much.  So, week by week, I tried to use less.  The first few days it was two and a half packets, in an attempt to show my tastebuds that less is more.  After a few weeks, I had cut back to one packet.  (And one packet helped, because then I felt like I could let go of that matchy-matchy OCD thing.)


And now I’m using half of a packet, or sometimes none at all (depending on how nice the coffee/milk combo is).  My goal is to make “none” the new standard.

It took some time to adjust to the lack of sweet.  My body craved that cloyingly sweet taste bud burst, but weaning was the way to go for me because cutting out sweetener entirely and all at once would have been an exercise in futility.  I’m not there yet, but working to make this a “habit of less” because I’m ready to ditch sweetener as much as possible.

It’s hard, though.  Sometimes I just want to rub the contents of a packet of Truvia on my gums.  (Too much?)

Have you ever worked to ditch a habit?  How did you do it?  I think the process of weaning is BORING and if there are ways to trick my mouth into not caring about sweetener, I’d love a tip or two.

 

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