Cowboys and cowgirls in town for the Salinas Rodeo in Salinas, Calif., recently had me thinking of my college rodeo days. My collegiate team members and I took competition very seriously back then. We were highly motivated by the axiom (which is still inscribed on one piece of my gear), "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."
Believe me, we had plenty of opportunities for which to prepare as we took off every weekend hauling horses across New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Success in competition came from practice. Every day. We wanted to be ready for what came our way, be it a 150-pound man-eating billy goat or a horse that suddenly came unglued.
When we were not prepared, we missed key opportunities to perform at our best. And sometimes_even when we were ready for our events_opportunities eluded us. Cowboys call it the luck of the draw.
We cowgirls also had to maintain our strength and stamina for competition. And that meant being alert to every nutrition opportunity (and detour) that came our way.
Take truck stops, for example. There's a story of a young woman who looks at the menu in such an establishment and sees two salads listed. One is a "tossed salad." The other is a "tossed salad deluxe."
"What is the tossed salad deluxe?" she asks her server.
Without hesitation, the waitress replies, "Tomato."
Another night as my traveling companions and I journeyed across west Texas, we stopped at a restaurant outside of Amarillo. It was the famous "Big Texan - home of the 72-ounce steak." (It also had a horse motel for our tired steeds.)
In addition to its regular menu, this restaurant offered (and still does, according to their website) a "free" 4 plus-pound steak dinner to anyone who can eat the entire meal - including shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, and a buttered roll - in one hour. (Ambulance ride to the hospital probably not included.)
No contest, we decided as we ordered smaller fare. It was not an opportunity we were prepared to accept.
I'm no longer chasing animals from a galloping horse or flying out of a saddle to tie a goat. But life continues to provide opportunities for which I need to be prepared, health-wise and otherwise.
For example, a recent article by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) seeks to define "powerhouse" vegetables: those most strongly associated with a reduced risk for chronic disease. In the top standings are cruciferous vegetables such as watercress, cabbage, kale and arugula. Green leafy vegetables such as chard, beet greens and spinach are also top contenders.
We can improve our chances for lifelong health when we prepare and eat more of these types of foods each day, experts suggest. Maybe I will look for more of those opportunities.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .)