So often, when I hear or read the words mindful eating, I am somehow repelled by it. Odd for a health coach right? I think the subject is very important, in terms of preventing its’ polar opposite -- mindless eating; eating unconsciously and somewhere in the past or future. Perhaps it’s because in younger years I was a mindless stress eater. I wouldn’t typically check out when I ate nutritious foods but once around the sugary treats I was swept away and lost track of the moment. I know there have been times when I have been checked out while multi-tasking, busy on the computer or immersed in busyness on a digital device. Back in grade school, I vividly recall that I would park myself outside the kitchen freezer door armed with a quart of Oreo® ice cream and a spoon. I realize now that I was living on auto-pilot in those moments. Nobody was consciously at the wheel. To this day, when I read about eating mindfully in books and articles online, the subject tugs at those lucid memories.
As a nutrition educator, these years later, I approach the subject of conscious eating with renewed interest given new tools. This concept of being present to what and how we eat first came to me when I started eating with nutrient density top of mind. I got off meat and poultry and most dairy products, quit refined sugar and caffeine and reduced my gluten intake. at the same time I significantly ramped up my intake of vegetables – especially micronutrient-rich dark leafy greens. In the process, intense cravings faded, my taste buds were reborn and I became so excited by the delicious food I was preparing and eating and how it made me feel that I grew passionately committed to creating a sacred space at mealtime and being infinitely present in it. The idea that I would no longer have to diet, count calories, feel deprived, overthink protein and chase my blood sugar with a snack every few hours freed me to stay present more. I would eat mindfully now without thinking about it. I wonder in this writing if this is a contradiction in terms! Not really. Eating real, whole, plant-based food has actually slowed me down. It grounds me in the now.
This book HOW TO EAT inspires my path. It’s a neat little read filled with big ideas. Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh illuminates on the mindful practice of selecting the food we eat, peaceful meal prep, zen cooking strategies, the nourishing art of eating, mindful mealtime conversation and dishwashing as meditation.
While vacationing in the Hamptons I enjoyed a lunch by the water that fueled me on many levels beyond my belly. The restaurant in Sag Harbor is called Provisions and their Red Coconut Dahl over brown rice with steamed greens blew me away. The feeling of energy and centeredness I would fell while enjoying this plant-perfect dish was powerful, so much so that it led me to order takeout for dinner – Vegetable Stir-fry with seasonal veggies, sesame and ginger (and pixy dust!)
The actual act of mindful eating makes a lot of sense to me in terms of the importance of being conscious and present when we eat. It clearly feels a lot better and tastes a lot better to be fully in the moment when eating. I just have a hard time listening to all the mindfulness eating jargon out there today. All the rules of eating mindfully, while valid are still rules. I don't eat according to rules anymore.
I like the idea of eating like a yogi - seeped in ideas of slowing down when we eat, making a ritual of healthy cooking with real ingredients and being nourished by food mind, body and spirit. Food is afterall fuel, and the state in which we find ourselves at mealtime inevitably lays a foundation for the rest of our day (and into tomorrow.) Often too busy to eat lunch, we might wind up gobbling down an energy bar in haste chased shortly after by a cup of coffee. This can lead to an afternoon and evening that’s far different by design than one that runs on brown-bagged leftovers from last night’s Ginger Vegetable Stir-fry and simply brewed unsweetened iced tea. Energy and stress levels, mood and the way we move in the world is directly influenced by the grade of fuel we choose to put in our tank.
I recently attended a local workshop called How to Eat Like a Modern Yogi given by Maria Savarino, a Certified Yoga Instructor. Maria shared the importance of proper diet for mind, body and spirit. A yogi with some sharp plant-based cooking skills in the kitchen, Maria talked about balancing yogic values and nutritional needs. She emphasized how the foods which nourish our body are instrumental in creating our thoughts and emotions too.
My favorite illustration of yogic eating was the preparation of Maria’s Acorn Squash Chocolate Karma Cake. Just the name makes me want to preheat my oven!
This moist, nutrient-rich recipe combines healthy grains, seeds, spices, nuts in the form of milk and a nut meal, seasonal vegetables, alternative flour and other whole ingredients.
Acorn Squash Chocolate Karma Cake: A very moist and healthy cake.
2 cups Acorn Squash boiled with skin on
1 cup Almond Meal
1 Cup shaved Chocolate and melted in bowl with warmed almond milk
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
½ cup toasted ground Sesame Seeds ½ cup coconut flour
3 cups cooked drained Quinoa
½ - ¾ cup Almond milk
2 Cardamon pods boiled in water: add 2 tablespoons of liquid
3 Heaping Tablespoons Sugar
3 Whole Eggs
3 Tablespoons Vanilla
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Cup Olive Oil
Oven 350 Degrees 35 – 45 Minutes: check with a toothpick at center: if no ingredients are left on toothpick, cake is done.
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl by adding the warmed almond milk
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend
Add all the ingredients to an oil lined deep dish baking pan: ceramic or metal. Depending on your pan, you may wish to line the pan with baking paper, cut to size, on top of the oil lined pan, and then it is easier flip the cake once cooled.
Maria’s business is Yoga Touch in Westchester County in New York.
Here’s to eating with a present mind so you can savor every flavor and be fully nourished daily. Namaste.