Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What the Heck Is Wrong With A Glass That's Half Empty?

I have moderately large drinking glasses and the other day, I noticed that I almost always end up putting a glass one-half to one-third full back in the refrigerator after meals.  Where, if I don't remember to pull it out for the next meal, usually ends up getting—shall we say?—a trifle aged. Especially if I push it to the back of the shelf and foget it. There's something about a glass of milk or juice that's been sitting in the fridge for three days that just a bit unappetizing.
Now, I hate to throw food away.  I even keep a special plastic container in my freezer just for what I call "handfuls" of food that I refuse to toss in the trash.  So it bugs me when I end up pouring slightly fermented juice, just-starting-to-curdle milk or long-flat soda down the drain.
Being only slightly dense, it finally struck me….why pour myself a whole, full-to-the-brim glass in the first place?  I almost never drink it…why do it?
What the heck is wrong with only pouring yourself half a glass of beverage? Or making half a package of hot cocoa? Half a cup of coffee?  Half a cup of hot tea….and saving the teabag for later?
Somehow, as we grow up, we get a lot of odd ideas in our heads when it comes to "full" versus "half empty."  Our parents (and I've seen people do this) load our plates down with enough food to feed a horse and if we eat a bite here and a bite there and then want to stop, we're told to "not waste food."  
I remember once watching a five-year old relative contemplate a plate stacked with two large pieces of chicken and two full serving spoons worth of potatoes and vegetables. He ate half his drumstick, half the potatoes, a third of the vegetables and pushed the plate away.  And the dialogue started.  "Don't you want more?" "No, Mom."  "Why don't you just have a few more bites?" "I don't want it, Dad."  "Would you like some bread instead?" "No."  "Would you like me to slice you an apple?"  "No." His parents, to their credit, didn't hit him with the "Think of all the starving children" line I got when I was a kid, but they spent a good ten minutes try to get this kid to eat more.  And he just didn't want it.  A healthy kid, slender but not skinny, and five years old. And they were worried because he wasn't chowing down what really should be enough food for a full-grown adult.  How the heck does that make any sense?
Why do we do this? Why do we load up our plates?  I have a friend who used to be grossly obese. (She's better now.) Her husband was also overweight. They had plates that were a good two inches in diameter larger than regular dinner plates and they would full them from edge to edge.   Why?  Well, in their case, the husband had gone without enough to eat a number of times when he was a kid. A big, full plate was his reaction to this, but it was a reaction that was emotional, not sensible, and the extra weight it helped generate probably was a factor in his later developing diabetes.
Filling up that glass, filling up that plate. Sometimes it's just habit.  Or an unrecognized conviction that a plate should always be full, and that if it's not, you're somehow being shortchanged or deprived.
 If you want that much, fine.  If you don't…why do it?

If two-thirds of a glass of milk or tea will get you comfortably through dinner or lunch, why not stretch your budget by only pouring or making yourself that much?  If you typically leave half your dinner roll or biscuit on your plate when you finish, why not just take half a roll or biscuit in the first place?            
Slice half a banana onto your breakfast cereal.  Give your child half a sliced apple to take to school.  If that's not enough, you can always add a little more.
"Waste not, want not." Is a very old saying that can have two meanings.  Traditionally, it meant that you didn't throw food away, that you ate everything on your plate, every last scrap.  But it can also mean preparing a little less food in the first place, after observing what you and your family actually eat.  That saves time, cuts calories, and saves money.

 Sometimes, a glass served half-empty is just exactly the right amount.  

Monday, December 31, 2012

$3.24 A Shot? For Energy?

Okay, someone clue me in.

Just prior to Christmas, I saw a TV ad that suggested that an appropriate gift for Christmas would be a multi-pak of  "energy" drinks. You know, the ones that sell for around $3 a pop and promise to keep you chugging along for hours?

I had an energy drink just a few minutes ago. It was a half-glass of orange juice and it cost me about fifteen cents. Is the stuff in those cans really worth 20 times the price?

I decided to try one. Bought one at my neighborhood convenience store, took it home so I could have it when I woke up in the morning, before I sullied the experiment with juice, hot chocolate or any other "wake up" beverage.

$3.24 with tax. About five gulps. I chugged it down and slogged outside to handle my pre-breakfast chore of graining, haying and watering six equines and feeding, walking and cleaning up after two dogs and a cat. (Animals eat and drink before the human at my house. The human gets to complain loudly and bitterly about it, but that's the rule.)

Then I came in, made myself an egg and sausage burrito and started working.

And waited for that expensive shot of "energy" to really kick in. I mean, for that price, I kind of expected to be tap dancing and yodeling my way through my morning.

Well, I didn't find myself nodding off over the laptop, but then, orange juice or 25 cents worth of hot chocolate seems to have the same effect. (I don't like coffee.) 

This particular energy drink advertises itself as having no sugar, but a small amount of sugar--such as you might add to a small cup of hot chocolate, tea or coffee--really isn't all that bad for you. (If you guzzle heavily sugared anything-- coffee or soda or tea-- all day, that obviously might make a difference, but if you actually need to do that, you've got a bigger problem than worrying about your weight.)

Besides, many of these "energy drinks" actually do contain sugar. Fairly significant amounts of sugar. Plus a list of additives that I, at least, have never heard of.  I prefer the orange juice and the burrito.

I'm not going to say that these drinks are unhealthy. But you might want to at least check how much caffeine you're getting if you chug more than a few a day, since a number of them contain more than 160 milligrams per drink and the Mayo Clinic thinks consuming more than 500 milligrams of caffeine per day is not such a good idea. (They put that number at 100 milligrams for adolescents and kids.)

Nor am I going to say that they don't work. My point is that there are much cheaper ways to raise your energy levels. A good night's sleep. (Yep, quit nodding off with the TV on.) A decent breakfast, with juice or fruit to give you a slower, steadier sugar boost, combined with some protein and carbs. A half-cup of your favorite coffee or a half-packet of hot chocolate,  brought to work in a "keep it hot" container--30 cents--and half of a banana or apple--35 cents. A brisk walk during your break, either around the block or up and down the hallways.

Or you can pay a premium price for energy in a can. One $3 drink each day equals a yearly cost of  $1,095. Two drinks? $2,190. That's a big hit to anyone's budget.

Especially when you can get the boost you need from much cheaper sources.