Archive for June, 2010

Eating Healthy at McDonalds

My Mom is a very smart woman, though she got smart only recently.

Six years ago, when I was 15, she was the most narrow-minded, tyrannical, and prudish person I knew. But since then, she’s grown a lot as a person. I fully expect that by the time I turn 21 later this year, she will be one of the most awesome people ever. She already is.

But she does have a blind spot.

She hates McDonalds. She thinks that it only serves junk food: Fried stuff. Sugar. Trans fats. Awful, awful, awful. Someone even made a movie about how awful it is.

“I think I’d almost prefer it if you used drugs,” she said. I chose not to enlighten her about a little experimentation I did in high school.

It’s true that some of McDonalds’ food is a little iffy. Red meat burgers, fried. French fries. Even the chicken and fish are fried, though you can also get the chicken grilled. Milk shakes whose ingredients, I suspect, resemble those of a high school chemistry experiment except with chocolate flavoring.

But that’s not true of everything McDonalds sells. There are lots of healthy food items on the menu. Most of them even taste pretty good. Here are some of my favorites.*

My New Favorite: Fruit Smoothies

Strawberry Banana Smoothie made with yogurt. They have other flavors too.

McDonalds fruit smoothies are new this year. They’re thick and cold like milkshakes, but they’re very low in fat and are made with fruit and yogurt. A small strawberry-banana smoothie has 210 calories, compared to 580 calories in the same size of milk shake. It has only half a gram of fat, compared with 17 grams of fat in the milk shake. It has 44 grams of sugar, which is a lot but still much less than the 77 grams in a milk shake. Finally, it’s got 70 percent of your daily Vitamin C, compared to no Vitamin C at all in a milk shake.

The one area where a milk shake is a little better is that it has 11 grams of protein, compared with 2 grams in the smoothie. But overall, the smoothie is healthy and delicious.

Orange Juice

Orange Juice. What could be healthier than that?

You can get it any time, not just for breakfast. Okay, it’s made from concentrate, not freshly-squeezed, but this is fast food. Very few mainstream restaurants have freshly-squeezed orange juice. It’s Minute Maid orange juice, so at least it’s made from a name brand concentrate. It tastes great and is healthy, too. A small orange juice has 150 calories, no fat at all, and 140 percent of your daily Vitamin C.

The only down side, if you’re doing low-carb, is that it’s absolutely loaded with sugar: 30 grams, probably one of the reasons it tastes so good. I’d say, have an orange juice and then hit the elliptical to work off the sugar. Or not.

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

This is another favorite of mine. It’s a yogurt cup with strawberries and blueberries. The granola comes in a separate little bag to keep it crunchy. The ingredients speak for themselves: lowfat yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and granola. If you include the granola, it has 160 calories, only 2 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein as well as 21 grams of sugar from the fruit. If you leave out the granola (which I don’t do, because I like it), it’s only 130 calories and 19 grams of sugar. A fruit and yogurt parfait is a wonderful light meal that’s delicious and very cheap, too.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad

Because the fruit smoothie is a little low in protein, it’s a good snack but not a meal. You can have it with a grilled chicken salad, which has 320 calories and only 9 grams of fat. It’s got a huge 30 grams of protein, which is probably all you need for the whole day, and it has 50 percent of your daily Vitamin C. But it has only 11 grams of sugar. If you’re going low-carb, don’t have it with a fruit smoothie (44 grams of sugar). But otherwise, enjoy it! It’s healthy, filling, and it tastes good.

One suggestion: For salad dressing, get the lowfat balsamic vinagrette, which has only 40 calories and 3 grams of fat. If you choose the Creamy Caesar Dressing instead, you’re getting 190 calories and 18 grams of fat from it. That cancels your nutritional advantage from having a grilled chicken salad.

Fruit and Walnut Snack Salad

Fruit and Walnut Snack Salad

It’s not really a salad, but it is a great snack! Separate compartments hold apple slices, grapes, sugar-coated walnut pieces, and yogurt. It’s got 210 calories, 8 grams of fat (mostly from the walnuts), 4 grams of protein, and 170 percent of your daily Vitamin C! It also has 25 grams of sugar, which isn’t great if you’re doing low-carb. But overall, it’s quick, tasty, and healthy.

I’m not sure if it’s intended that way, but I dip the apple slices in the yogurt. And the sugar-coated walnuts are my favorite part.

The Point Is

The point is that yes, you can eat bad things at McDonalds if that’s your choice. But there are also a lot of good things to eat. They’re tasty, healthy, fast, and cheap.

Someday, I’ll even get my Mom in there for lunch. Then she’ll see.

*Just for the record, I get no money or any other kind of payment from McDonalds. Not even a free fruit smoothie. I’m also not a nutritionist and am not giving medical advice, blah blah blah. This is just what I think.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.


My Torso Is Not in a Dumpster

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s amazing!

I know that I haven’t blogged since before my date last week, but don’t worry: I’m not dead!

My date last Friday night was wonderful. He definitely did not chop me up into little pieces and put them into zip-lock sandwich bags for mailing to a weird little rural town full of cannibals. 🙂

Yes, I know that sounds crazy. But in my own defense, I’m not the only one who sometimes has morbid fears like that.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I’m reading J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel Commencement, about four friends at Smith College. It is amazing! But in an early scene, one of the friends wakes up after a night of drunken passion:

The guy lying next to her was named Brian or Ryan; that much she remembered. Everything else was a bit of a blur … She was lucky not to have been chopped up into little bits. You saw it in the papers all the time: They met at a party, he asked her to go for a stroll, two days later the police found her torso in a dumpster in Queens. She wished that casual sex wasn’t so intimately connected to the possibility of being murdered, but there you had it.

Just for the record, no sex, casual or otherwise, has occurred yet with the guy I’m seeing. Of course, it depends on what you count as sex, but it’s not casual, anyway. And he’s a doctor. And my Dad is on the board of the hospital where he works and where I am a summer intern. So the situation lacks the kind of anonymity that might lead to my torso being found in a dumpster in Queens. Plus, he’d need to figure out how to get my torso on a plane to New York to dump it there. 🙂

Oooh, this is sounding kind of gruesome! Sorry about that. I’m really a very happy person, not suicidal, don’t cut myself, etc., etc., and so forth.

But I totally recommend that you run out and get Commencement. I will post a full book review when I’ve finished reading it, but I am enjoying it a lot.

My guy won’t tell me where we’re going tonight, but it’s going to be a dance club. That much I know.

Eeek! I have to be ready in a little over an hour! Wish me luck … and I hope that you have a great weekend, too!

Ttfn …

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

My Big Fat Friday Dinner Date

Maybe this is the place. If it is, I’ll see you there!

Remember my doctor friend at the hospital, the one who’s going to help me study for the MCAT?

Well, he’s taking me on a late dinner date tonight to a super-nice restaurant down on Clark Street. I haven’t been there before, but I’ve heard of it and it sounds wonderful.

Of course, I’ll try not to eat or drink very much, both to make a good impression and so that I’ll still be thinking clearly later on.

Just by coincidence, the restaurant is fairly close to where he lives but farther away from where I live. These things are just a teensy bit predictable. After dinner, he’ll suggest that we go back to his place to listen to music or watch a DVD. That’s fine. I want to do that, along with the expected extra-curricular activities. But then it gets late. And he asks, ever so innocently, if maybe I should stay there tonight?

I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t try. And I do like him. But no, sorry, not on the first date.

I need to let the boy make a little progress so he feels that it’s worth the effort. But not too much progress. As my Mom says, people don’t appreciate what they get too easily. It applies to education, and to money, and … to other things. 🙂

And with that, I had better start getting ready!

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

Categories: Dating, feminism, Guys, Life Tags: , , ,

Where Do Human Rights Come From?

In a recent blog article about health care reform, I wrote that people have a right to medical care. A regular reader asked a very deep question: Where do our rights come from?

I think that he asked the question because he doesn’t believe medical care is a right. He wants to know why I believe that it is. Fair enough. This is my answer. Maybe it’s not a very good answer, but it’s the best I can do. I will be grateful for any corrections.

Special thanks to my uncle, who is a philosopher and mathematician, for suggesting things to read and helping clarify my ideas. He also read my draft of this blog and improved it a lot.

What are rights?

Before we ask what rights we have, we need to figure out what rights are. Otherwise, we don’t know what we are talking about. It’s surprising that even though people have argued about rights for centuries, most writers never bother to define the idea.

How would we figure out a definition? Well, suppose that we wanted to define the idea of a chair. We’d probably look at some chairs and see what they all had in common:

  • Piece of furniture.
  • Suitable for a human being to sit on.

We’d leave out things like “made of wood” and “has four legs” because they don’t apply to all chairs. We’d also leave out “built by people” because even though it applies to all chairs, it’s included in the idea of chairs as furniture.

We can do a similar thing to figure out a definition of “right.” Let’s look at some things that people have said are rights:

What do all those things have in common? It seems to me that they are all demands on someone to do something or not to do something. Therefore, rights are meaningless outside of a group of people.

A right is a moral demand on someone to do something or not to do something.

Different Types of Rights

It also seems to me that there are different types of rights. We get different types of rights in different ways.

For example, I have a right to life simply because I am a person. Rights that I have because I’m a person are inalienable. If I’m alive, then I have them automatically. Whether you think it’s because of natural law or because God ordained it, my right to life is the same.

Of course, saying that I have a right to life doesn’t make it completely clear what that right means.

It’s a demand on someone (who?) to do something (what?) or not to do something (what?). But there are lots of blanks to fill in.

At a bare minimum, it’s a demand on other people around me not to murder me. But that’s the minimum it can mean. Depending on the situation, it can mean more than that. Instead of just imposing a negative duty on people not to do something to me, it can also impose a positive duty on people to do something for me. And that’s where the situation becomes important.

Rights from Groups and Situations

In addition to minimum and inalienable rights, I have other rights because I belong to groups or am in certain situations. I have a right to help from my professors because I am a student at my college. I have a right to enter the hospital office where I work because I am a summer intern. I have a right to the love and support of my parents because I am their daughter. I have a right to date Penn Badgley because … oh, wait, I don’t have that right. Yet. 🙂

Notice that rights we have because of situations or group membership are usually not inalienable. If the situation changes, or we leave the group, we no longer have those rights. But as long as we’re in the situation or the group, those rights are real.

Edmund Burke, a political philosopher, wrote about the rights we have as members of society:

If civil society is made for the advantage of human beings, then all the advantages for which it is made become their right. … Whatever people can do separately, without trespassing on others, they have a right to do for themselves; and they have a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in their favour. (Reflections on the Revolution in France)

Burke’s point is that society is established to achieve certain benefits. As members of a society, we have the right to enjoy our fair share of those benefits.

And notice the common sense embodied in that idea: the benefits we have a right to enjoy depend on the society in which we live. In a very rich society like ours, we have a right to things that we would not have as members of a very poor society. People in poor societies are just as important as we are, but their societies simply lack the ability to provide for them as well as ours can provide for us. So a sensible theory of human rights doesn’t demand that their societies do things that are impossible for them.

What Rights, and Why?

Jack Donnelly, in his book Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, summarizes the kind of rights we have as members of society:

The scientist’s human nature says that beyond this, we cannot go. The moral nature that grounds human rights says that beneath this, we must not permit ourselves to fall.

Human rights are “needed” not for life but for a life of dignity. “There is a human right to X” implies that people who enjoy a right to X will lead richer and more fully human lives … a life worthy of a human being.

That states very clearly the kind of rights we have as members of society: as much as possible, our society should help us to lead fulfilling human lives. It should do that because that’s the purpose for which we have a society in the first place. If we wanted to eke out a meager life alone in the forest, we could do that, but it would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Joining together with other people in society makes it possible for us to lead better lives than that.

Tell Me a Story …

Ironically, after making such a strong statement of human rights based on human nature, Jack Donnelly says that it’s almost impossible to prove:

The obvious “solution” of presenting and defending a theory of human nature linked to a particular set of human rights forces us to confront the fact that few issues in moral or political philosophy are more contentious or intractable than theories of human nature.

Put more clearly, he’s saying that we can’t prove any particular human rights come from human nature because we can’t prove what human nature is — at least, not to anyone who doesn’t already agree with us.

But that’s not really such a bad thing. Here I have to give all the credit to my uncle, who has a strange but convincing theory about human rights and morality: We can’t prove moral truths to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. We just aren’t smart enough. Our logic just isn’t good enough. But one thing we do know for sure is that love is good. If we treat people in a loving way, we know we are doing right: we don’t need any proof for that. So when we talk about morality and human rights, we are telling a story about how a loving society should be; about how we want our society to support and care for its members.

That’s why people have argued back and forth about human rights for centuries, but no one has ever been able to win the argument.

Human rights aren’t about logic: human rights are about love. They’re about treating all people in as loving a way as we and our society have the ability to treat them. And treating people with love is not a logical conclusion: It’s a choice. You can either make that choice, or not make it. It’s only after you make the choice that logic comes into play.

I can’t prove it, but you know it’s true. And therefore, you know about human rights.

It’s as simple as “love your neighbor.” That’s all you need to know.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.