Last month my family and I spent some time in our lovely San Bernardino Mountains. Early one morning we took a yoga class at an outdoor amphitheater.  Under the shelter of a canopy we were protected from the soft rain pattering the soil around us. All the sounds of the forest quieted just before the rain fell, but as soon as the clouds released the gentle stream all my senses came alive. The birds began to chirp excitedly, the wind carried freshly washed pine and the gray clouds swirled across the sky.

Mindfulness is a concept of being more aware and present in the moment; to rely on all senses to achieve satisfaction. This is a concept that I use in my practice when counseling patients to slow down their pace of eating, smell and taste their food, and in general just be more aware of what they’re putting in their mouths.

True Food Kitchen's Tuscan kale with salmon may look healthy, but it could use more flavor. (Photo courtesy Google Images.)

True Food Kitchen’s Tuscan kale with salmon may look healthy, but it could use more flavor. (Photos courtesy Google Images.)

How many times have you sat at your desk and wolfed down your lunch without even tasting the food or remembering that you’ve finished it? Or maybe sitting in your favorite club chair with a bag of popcorn or chips while reading a book or watching TV with your intention to just eat a little and then finding yourself rooting around the bottom of the bag for more without even realizing that you ate the entire bag. This sort of mindless eating can lead to reflux and unwanted weight gain, which in turn can increase cholesterol and blood glucose and may even lead to metabolic syndrome.

I was out to lunch with a friend recently at True Food Kitchen in the Santa Monica Place. True Food Kitchen offers seasonal, sustainable, simple and pure meals that support Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. Their concept is to take popular trends in cuisine and pair them with healthy living. But I will take it one step further and say that their food supports mindful eating as well. While catching up on the latest news and gossip with my friend, I was still able to be present with my meal.

I ordered the red chili shrimp entrée, which is a sesame noodle dish with perfectly cooked tender-crisp shrimp, spinach and shitake mushrooms in a flavorful broth. This was a simple dish with vibrant colors, high-quality ingredients and robust, satisfying flavors.  I left lunch having enjoyed each mouthful of my delicious meal.  The next day I was a little swollen from all the high sodium sauces in the dish.  Not a good choice if you have high blood pressure; fortunately I don’t, so I just watched my sodium intake the next day.

Stop and smell the … fennel. Mindful eating is a key to controlling weight gain and leads to a greater appreciation of the foods we eat. (Photos courtesy Google Images)

Stop and smell the … fennel. Mindful eating is a key to controlling weight gain and leads to a greater appreciation of the foods we eat. 

Now my friend’s meal, on the other hand, I didn’t like. She ordered the Tuscan kale and salmon. It was colorful, but boring in content and flavor. She was served a generous 5 or 6 ounce portion of salmon on a bed of bland kale. I like kale when it’s done right, but to me this looked and tasted like she was eating a giant plate of garnish with a side of salmon.

If you go to True Food Kitchen try some of their seasonal dishes. I was tempted by the summer seafood bouillabaisse with sea bass, fennel, and zucchini. It’s gluten free, so no crusty bread to soak up the juices, but maybe you can order a small side of brown rice instead. Many entrées and starters are marked gluten free (gf) or vegetarian (v), but they cater to the omnivore as well with such dishes as the grass-fed steak tacos and the chicken teriyaki brown rice bowl.

Be wary of “The Natural Refreshments.” These are a novelty and fun to try maybe once in a while, but these “healthy elixirs” are really no more than fresh-squeezed lemon-sugar water with little nutritional value. You could have one piece of bread or 1/2 a cup of sesame noodles for the same amount of carbs.

 

The breakdown 

 

Cucumber lemonade — not worth the carbs or sugar

Calories: 80; Fat: 0; Carbs: 19g; Fiber: 0; Sugar: 17g

(Analyzed from True Food recipe found online.)

 

Red chili shrimp

Calories: 350; T Fat: 6g; Sat Fat: 0.5g; Chol: 145mg; Sodium: 1660mg; Carbs: 50g;   Fiber: 4g; Sugars: 8g; Protein: 27g

(Analyzed from True Food recipe found online.)

 

Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D.N, C.P.T. is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. Learn more at   www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.