Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ice Cream: My #1 Source of Calcium

I have decided that my calcium intake will include daily servings of ice cream.

Oh, I could go the pious middle-aged woman route and eat nonfat yogurt. Don't get me wrong: I like yogurt -- though, as a vegetarian, I have to carefully peruse ingredient labels for the wicked and terribly mis-named "kosher gelatin." (Who knew milk products could be so perilous?)

I could turn to spinach or dandelions, which have more calcium than milk, plus the all-important Vitamin K. (I think they're making it up, this Vitamin "K" — we all know vitamins stop at E.)

I could do a lot more wholesome things.

However, I won't. I like ice cream. I like eating it, and I like having an excuse even better.

Not that I need an excuse, mind you. It’s okay to do things just because they’re fun.

I saw a PostSecret postcard that inquired, "When did it stop being fun to jump on the bed?" I realized it hasn’t stopped being fun, but somewhere along the way it fell the by wayside, became less acceptable. We're too big, we might break the bed, we might hit our heads, we have to set a good example for children.

Oh, there are plenty of excuses, and none of them I’ve thought of so far really are good enough.

I've already corrupted my cats by showing them how to climb on the kitchen counter. Apparently, the idea hadn't yet occurred to them by the tender age of six months, and as I reached for the light bulb I was changing by standing on the counter, I watched the lights go on in their little brains and realized I probably ruined it for myself. (Not really, I later discovered, because they weren’t following my example, but that of their elder statescat Mao, who taught them what not to scratch, where to walk and what was delicious.)

So, when did ice cream stop being the "adult" way to get milk products?

Maybe it was when our metabolism matured and suddenly we couldn't skip lunch and lose that extra couple of pounds like we could in college.

More and more of my associates are asking for tiny slivers of birthday cake and "only a little" ice cream, or skipping dessert altogether. I have been known to be among them, but only when it's not good or not my favorite. I have met only a few desserts I didn't like, and only once did I taste a chocolate cake that wasn't good. (It was wedding cake, which was criminal.)

I'm neither obese nor malnourished. My physicians never have had cause to scold me too soundly for my eating habits — although I can go for a week without eating and not waste away. (I tested that theory last year under doctor's orders. I’m not if I should be proud or disturbed.) I don't glom on to too much unhealthy food. I have donuts once or twice a month at work. I drink diet soda only once a week or so.

But I'm not above the sweet-or-greasy, either: I can eat Fritos with the best of 'em, and cookies are not safe in my house. French fries are a staple for me, as are burgers (of the veggie kind). Chocolate is a major food group. So, while I don’t eat horrible food all the time, I give myself permission to eat what I want — within reason.

Thankfully, my exposure to "junk" food is limited because most convenience food is made with meat, which I do not eat. Oh, there are plenty of non-meat options at fast-food take-out joints, but I don't eat there. Most snack foods in the frozen food aisle are of the meat variety, which are easy to skip. I can find enough to get myself in trouble, though, and I have never met a cheese stick I didn't like.

I never want to be like one of the women I know who lost about 30 pounds on the Atkins diet — and spoke of bread with such sweet longing that I was embarrassed and thought maybe I should leave her alone with her memories of that decadent, delicious baked good. She denied herself one of the items in her life that gave her pleasure.

I don’t want to be the person waxing nostalgic about the food I love but “can’t” have. I doubt any of us at the end of our lives will sadly reflect that we didn’t eat enough kale. We might, however, regret skipping that last piece of birthday cake — and how sad would that be.

Be the person who finds a way to have what you want in a way that’s healthy and nutritious, or at least fun.

Be the person who jumps on the bed.

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