Food as Medicine 6.13.11

Posted in Susan Fekety on June 13th, 2011 by susanfekety
Unless otherwise noted, © Copyright 2011 by Susan Fekety. All Rights Reserved.

Heading home after 5 days at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s Food as Medicine conference.  It is a glorious spring day, of the sort that makes you feel rather optimistic about just about everything — clear and bright, with clean air (or clean enough — this is a city, after all.)  Managed to find myself a decent breakfast in hostile territory — one of the airport kiosks actually had plain Greek yogurt and containers of surprisingly good strawberries and blueberries.

As I spied on my traveling companions, I was struck again by the aptness of Mark Hyman’s characterization of the diabesity epidemic as a “social disease” — not just our food industry, but all our food relationships present a challenge, and it does appear to be infectious. This is one of the reasons I like my FirstLine Therapy healthy living groups — when we come together to share our experiences making lifestyle changes, and celebrate successes swimming upstream in a toxic food culture, things are SO much easier, and we are much less likely to surrender to “what everyone else is having.” We nourish our immune system this way.

Still, there are many hopeful signs. My yogurt-and- berries-breakfast  is one –I suspect I would not have seen THAT five years ago. Increasing numbers of airports are offering fresh food instead of fried, and it really does appear possible for food sellers to provide reasonably economical options that fit into a healthful eating plan. Though you can make a solid argument about the moral vacuity of the American food industry, its smart elements will follow the growing market of people committed to sensible choices when they eat out.

Chipotle, for instance, is a burgeoning national chain that recently opened an outlet in Portland; they have a simple Tex-Mex menu but emphasize fresh vegetables, naturally raised meat products, prepared to order.  Chicken, black beans (oooh baby), abundant shredded lettuce, extra salsa, a dollop of guacamole — a nice balance there (and generally plenty to take home for lunch tomorrow.)

Another thing to keep your eye on: Not far from my hotel I discovered another lovely local chain restaurant called SweetGreens. Locally sourced salad ingredients, lots of organic, plus a splendid array of add-ins and some very mindful dressing options. My favorite was the Santorini salad — fresh mesclun and arugula, feta cheese, purple onions, grilled shrimp, and a handful of sliced-in-half purple grapes in lime-yogurt dressing. I could have added all sorts of things: quinoa, edamame, berries, almonds, real parmesan cheese off an actual wheel — I mean, seriously, why would you go anywhere else?  This is the sort of business endeavor that makes me grateful for young people with initiative, and hopeful for the future.  Is there a SweetGreens near you? I hope someday soon to find one near me.

ps:  Further in this vein, let me just mention that at this conference Dr. Hyman alluded to having recently had a meeting with folks from McDonald’s (!) about how exactly to do this healthy food thing. I am shocked!  Wonder what they’ll come up with (or whether, or when.)  But still — just to have those folks in a room together talking? Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. I’ll keep you posted.

Got home, and it was 59 degrees and overcast. But I remain optimistic.

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