Lessons in eating

Yesterday I got back from a relaxing getaway in Palm Desert, CA. It was nice to leave overcast San Diego for a couple of days and sit poolside in 106 degree sunshine. On this mini vacation, a few thoughts came to mind that I really wanted to share with you.

Here are three lessons (all about food...yes, I love food) that I hope you enjoy:

Lesson #1: Just because it's free, it doesn't mean you have to eat as much as you can possibly stuff into your body.

Yes, I'm talking about the complimentary continental breakfast buffet that was included with our hotel room. The spread was disappointing, both in the quality of the food as well as the lack of diversity in the selection.


Choices included: Bread (toast) | Bagels | English Muffins | Pastries | Muffins | Banana Bread | Cereal | Yogurt | Oatmeal

It was a sad sight...a S.A.D. sight indeed. Have you noticed how ugly the Standard American Diet is? Everything on the buffet table was brown or white, with the exception of a tiny bowl of unripe fruit that looked far from fresh. As I was doing my best to enjoy my oatmeal, my mind kept thinking about vibrant, colorful fruits and vegetables...the sight of life and energy! The look of freshness and flavor!

The sugary, processed, refined carbohydrates that dominated the buffet looked lifeless and would surely make those who consumed it feel the same way a few hours later. I looked around and noticed that the majority of the other diners had completely filled up their over-sized plates with food...gotta get your money's worth, right? Isn't that the mentality we're used to? In the presence of either free food or a buffet, our hunger signals start malfunctioning, portion control is a foreign concept and eating well beyond the point of fullness is much too common. We have a hard enough time in general understanding not just what to eat, but also how to eat so when we're faced with a free buffet (particularly one with less than ideal food choices), we feel confused and conflicted.

So whether you're on vacation, at a buffet, or an event that's serving free food, remember that you don't have to gorge yourself purely because you can.  If you're stuffed, Stop. If you're no longer enjoying your food, Stop. Remember: Your body is with you wherever you go.You don't need to force yourself to eat a certain amount of food to justify how much you spent (is it even possible to eat $60 worth of food at a $60 buffet?)

So how did I deal with my less than satisfying breakfast? I ate a little of what I put on my plate to hold me over and decided to have an early lunch at one of my favorite healthy restaurants so I could save our appetite for high quality, nourishing food (see Lesson #3). Problem solved.

Lesson #2: Give "mainstream" restaurants a chance...they might surprise you.

Sunday night, I enjoyed a delicious dinner at P.F. Chang's, what seemed to be one of the only restaurants open at 9pm on a Sunday night in Palm Desert. The first and only time I'd ever been there was about 4 years ago and the reason I hadn't returned had nothing to do with the food, but rather my preference for "non-mainstream" restaurants, especially since there are so many incredible ones close to where I live.

I was absolutely blown away that the last page of the menu listed nearly 30 gluten-free options! This isn't a new addition to the menu, but it'd been so long since my last visit (which was before I had even heard of "gluten-free") that it was the first time I noticed it. I ordered the Gluten-Free Salmon Steamed with Ginger which was served with veggies and brown rice. Extremely tasty and big enough to take home the leftovers. It was so refreshing to see that these big restaurant chains have hopped on the "offer more options for people with dietary restrictions and indicate them clearly on the menu" bandwagon.

Lession #3: Healthy restaurants exist.

Before driving back to San Diego, I had lunch at Native Foods, an AMAZING little cafe with a menu full of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, organic options. I'd been once before and had a wonderful experience there, so was thrilled when I found out that there was another location in Palm Desert. Sometimes I hear people get discouraged because they think they can't go to restaurants AND eat healthy. Or that healthy restaurants are too expensive compared to less healthy ones. Native Foods is the perfect example of a place that is both super healthy and reasonably priced. The service was outstanding and I was so happy to see that business was booming, not an empty table in the whole place. Healthy restaurants exist, you just have to find them.

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