Archive for November, 2008

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Beer ads

November 7, 2008

I love beer ads and beer commercials. They’re usually clever, funny, and silly. They have excellent marketing strategies in that people really do enjoy them!

But I think what I like most about them is the wealth of information they hold; what they say about our gender roles and social beliefs and values. Beer ads represent societal constructions on masculinity and femininity. Let’s take a beer ads tour, shall we?

This one shows Jessica Simpson promoting a light beer. The fine print says, “I work out and take care of myself. But I still like a cold beer once in a while. That’s why I make the smart choice with a smart beer. Stampede Light, it’s beer plus.”

I notice two key things about this ad right away. First off, it’s a woman representing a light beer rather than a regular one. Secondly, we’ve got the association with intelligence and beer (because, you know, beer makes us smart. That’s why university students drink so much of it).

Then we’ve got Colonial Spirits scoffing light beer by saying, “We carry some of the best ales in the world for those who drink for the taste… And we carry ‘light beer’ for those who just like to pee a lot.” This is an indication that beer represents refined tastes and acts almost as a symbol of social status depending on what beer you choose.

The ad above, to me, can definitely be associated with this ad, Guinness for Strength, which shows men playing football with beer. The idea being here that beer is about masculinity and manliness.

Interestingly, this ad tries to incorporate masculinity with a light beer: “Light Beer: it keeps me at ma fightin’ weight”. And similarly, another ad shows light beer in the shape of a light bulb– the classic symbol of ideas, which would suggest that drinking light beer is the smart choice to make (regardless of gender).

I don’t remember who it was who made the comment on someone’s blog months ago, but the line was “Hungry Woman dinners? No. We get 100-calorie packs” (let me know if you know who said it!). And doesn’t it ring true! Women are often associated as the ones who eat only salads and try to be thinner; men are often associated with needing to fuel up for the sports they participate in. Case and point: the boot camp I’m a part of is a boot camp for women; there is no boot camp for men where I live (my doctor, when I mentioned boot camp, noted that I don’t really need it but that he could sure use some boot camp. He remarked that men are probably much more in need of boot camp than women. A very interesting comment for a doctor to make!). And nearly all of my male friends regularly compete with each other in trying to see who cat eat the most tacos/milk/ice cream etc.

However, when we look at these beer commercials, it becomes apparent that it’s not just women we’re trying to appeal to these days with trying to be healthier, lose weight, or eat less. Society is working on altering our conception of masculinity to allow for men to drink things like light beer without feeling “less of a man”. And most of the appeal in these ads focus on appearances rather than health, which is a whole other topic altogether.

What do you think? Are our views of masculinity and femininity changing? Are gender roles starting to overlap and becoming socially acceptable? And to the men out there: what do you think about 100-calorie packs being promoted by women, Hungry Man dinners being specifically aimed for men, and the different associations that these ads make with light beer as being a feminine thing (as with the Jessica Simpson ad) or something which can apply to manliness (as with the “fightin’ weight” ad)?

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Life Lessons: Overdoing it

November 5, 2008

All last week I had horrible stomach cramps. Doing jumping jacks was even uncomfortable. My tummy was not pleased with me so I set out to determine what the culprit was.

My first guess was dairy- it seems that just about everyone is susceptible to minor dairy intolerance and I myself occasionally can’t seem to handle dairy products very well, so that would make sense. That is, it would make sense if I were consuming very many dairy products, which I had neglected to do (this realization sparked a sudden oh-man-I-want-milkyogurtcheese reaction that I was happy to indulge in. Yum).

Then I wondered if I had been having too many processed foods. I thought that going on a no-processed-foods detox for a week would help, but I’m well aware that that would have been a foolish choice to make the week of Halloween! And then I had to acknowledge, too, that my diet really doesn’t contain many processed foods, and there’s no reason whatsoever why my body would reject the small amount that I do eat.

It wasn’t until I was on my third bowl of oatmeal in one day that I considered that the problem might be my consumption of fiber. There is so much urging to eat fiber-rich foods and how it is vitally important, but what about when we reach levels that are too high? Eating more than enough oatmeal and other whole grains, vegetables and high-fiber fruits was causing my stomach to be upset. So I cut back on how much oatmeal I was eating and shortly thereafter, because of that small change, the cramps subsided.

This problem of overdoing it has also occurred in the past when I start exercising too much- to the point when I’d just feel constantly tired. Exercise is supposed to be energizing, so I’d increase my exercise before understanding that overdoing it was the issue, and cutting back just a little bit was the cure.

I completely advocate high fiber foods. What I do suggest, however, is that you take into consideration how much fiber you currently eat, how much fiber you consume in one sitting (I strongly recommend spreading several high fiber foods over the course of the day to ward off the stomach problems!), and how much you ought to be getting. If you are far below the quota, then only increase your intake very gradually to work your way up. And be careful not to go too far above and beyond the recommended amount. Too much of something- in nutrition, exercise, and just about every other aspect of your life- is just as bad as too little of something (as my train of thought veers toward how much food we as North Americans eat and the corresponding health problems associated with it… but we’ll save that discussion for another day!).

Evaluate the balance in your life. If something seems amiss, examine all the factors to see if overdoing it is the problem!

Have you fallen into an overdoing-it situation? Was it because of habit, preference, or something that was simply happenstance? And how did you remedy the issue? Leave me a comment!

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Cookbook Review: "Diabetes & Heart Healthy Meals for Two"

November 3, 2008

The American Diabetes Association recently came out with this cookbook, filled with recipes all designed to make just two portions. Excellent for us students living on our own! The recipes are categorized into Appetizers, Snacks, and Beverages; Soups; Salads; Seafood; Poultry; Meats; Vegetarian Entrees; Vegetables and Side Dishes; Breads and Breakfast Dishes; and Desserts, so there is a wide diversity and sure to be something for everyone.

What first struck me about this book is the presentation. The clean white cover is very classic, and the layout of each recipe is very nicely done with a simple font and clear nutrition facts. In the middle of the book, there’s several pages of colour photographs depicting 15 of the dishes.

I like that the majority of these recipes do not rely on processed foods and canned soups, like many of the cookbooks written for one to two people do. This just goes to prove that eating deliciously healthy doesn’t mean the meal has to be incredibly fancy or a daunting task!

Quick Herb-Tomato Soup

Do not eat this soup if you are going out in public afterward! The garlic from the hummus is like fire in your mouth. The addition of hummus was such a creative part of the recipe. This was a very easy soup to make but incredibly hot and spicy. I had some when it was cold and it tasted like very thick gazpacho, so that was interesting. This would be good on a cold day, but you only need a few spoonfuls to be satisfied because of the heat.

Roasted Moroccan Chickpeas

Unfortunately, I wandered away while these were in the oven and I proceeded in burning about half of them. Oops.

They were a little bit too crunchy for my liking (yes Sagan, that’s what happens when you burn something), and I’m not too sure that I would make these again. I recently had some roasted chickpeas that were store bought, and I only found them to taste mediocre as well, so I think that the verdict on this one may be simply personal preference that I happen to not enjoy my chickpeas roasted. At least, assuming that I would feel the same way were they not burned…

Salmon with Blueberry Sauce

This salmon was fantastic. We doubled the recipe to make it for four, and everyone was in agreement that we will definitely need to be having it again. I loved the colour of the dish and the sweetness from the honey and blueberries was the perfect accent.

Serves 2; 3 oz fish and 1/4 cup sauce per serving

Ingredients:
– cooking spray
– 2 salmon fillets with skin (about 5 oz each), rinsed and patted dry
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1/8 tsp pepper
– 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
– 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
– 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
– 1 tbsp fresh orange juice
– 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 tsp honey
– 2 tsp sliced green onion

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. Put the fish with the skin side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the garlic powder, salt, and pepper over the fish.
3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together the broth and cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients except the green onion. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, or until the mixtures comes to a boil and thickens, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat. Stir in the green onion. Spoon over the fish. Remove the skin before eating the fish.

Nutrition Information
– 235 calories (90 calories from fat)
– 10 g total fat (1.7g saturated, 2.3 g polyunsaturated, 4.7g monounsaturated)
– 75 mg cholesterol
– 230 mg sodium
– 11 g total carbohydrates (1 g dietary fiber, 6g sugars)
– 25 g protein
Reprinted with permission from DIABETES & HEART HEALTHY MEALS FOR TWO, published by the American Diabetes Association.

Peach-Glazed Chicken and Yellow Rice with Browned Onions

Peach and chicken? Surprisingly, the two complement each other very well! It’s so unexpected and very pleasing for the taste buds. The Yellow Rice with Browned Onions, on the other hand, was unfortunately a little bland. It needed a bit of a kick, perhaps with some celery salt or pepper. I did find, however, that mixing the peaches from the chicken into the rice added a bit of flavour.

Pumpkin Cakes

These were super tasty! Very moist and delicious. I would absolutely have them again. And it’s good because the recipe only makes two- therefore you won’t make a batch and eat half a dozen in one sitting (because I’ve never been guilty of doing that…)

Overall, I very much enjoyed this cookbook. Most of the recipes are quite simple to put together and require fairly basic ingredients. The recipes are uncomplicated to follow and, of course, they are all very healthy! Some of them might require a little bit of extra spices to boost the flavour (but I assure you that the tomato soup has plenty of flavour already and you certainly won’t want to be adding extra garlic!). Do try making the salmon and let me know how it turns out. If you like salmon and blueberries, I’m sure that you’ll love this recipe with all its Superfood goodness.