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A Peek Inside NYC’s New Slow Food Mecca

Today I visited a food store I’ve been waiting to open for nearly a year. It’s called Eataly, a 50,000 square foot restaurant/Italian food market hybrid with a soon to open rooftop beer garden (with an in house microbrewery). This isn’t the only Eataly but it’s the first in the United States, and what I love most about the concept is right on the two signs in the photos:

 

You Are What You Eat

 

&

 

Eat Better, Cook Simpler

 

If you’ve never heard of the Slow Food Movement, Italy is its birthplace. The basic idea is “to counteract fast food and fast life.” Slow Food supports local food and preserving food traditions, emphasizes taking an interest in where food comes from and how it tastes, and promotes producing food in a way that doesn’t harm the planet, provides animals with the best life possible, and allows farmers to receive fair compensation for their work.

 

Slow Foodies consider themselves co-producers of food, not consumers, because by being aware of how food is produced and actively supporting the people who produce it, Slow Foodies are active partners in food production (I love that!).

 

At Eataly I got the sense that many of these values are integral to the way they operate. When I asked a women in the produce section about where various fruits and veggies were grown she knew. The breads are hand made with organic flour and natural yeast, and the meats are produced humanely on sustainable farms without the use of hormones or antibiotics. The store’s book section was filled with titles about artisan food, how to grow your own fruits and veggies, and  Mediterranean diet cookbooks. I was on cloud 9.

 

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I think keeping it real (e.g. no artificial anything in food) and being connected to where your food comes from are important keys to both health and weight control.

 

The other day a client who is trying to clean up her diet (eat unprocessed, “real” food) fell back into her old habits and was shocked by how her body responded. After eating healthfully for two weeks (and dropping 10 pounds) she enjoyed just one back-track meal, and her “side effects” included a huge drop in energy, stomach pain, a massive headache, and tight jeans the next morning. She told me, “I think my days of eating frozen pizza, chips and soda are finally behind me, because now I know how eating that way really makes me feel.” Like many of my clients, she really didn’t know the difference until she took a break from eating processed foods.  

 

When the way you eat makes you feel lousy, you’re more apt to skip exercise and get sucked into a downward spiral of unhealthy eating. If this sounds familiar consider taking a clean food challenge. For 5 days, 7 days, 14 days or even a month follow 5 simple rules:

 

1)    Eat only whole foods (e.g. oats and blueberries rather than a blueberry muffin) and for packaged foods, only buy brands that contain “real food” ingredients – ingredients you easily recognize, can pronounce, and would use to make a from scratch version in your own kitchen, like bread simply made from whole grain flour, yeast, water and salt. If a food contains even one ingredient that makes you think “huh?” skip it, at least during the challenge.

2)    Keep meals simple. Delicious food doesn’t have to contain a lot of ingredients. Tonight my dinner was a salad made from 2 cups of baby spinach tossed with balsamic vinegar and salt-free Italian herbs topped with a half cup each of cooked, chilled red quinoa and cannellini beans, garnished with a quarter of a sliced Haas avocado. Six simple ingredients, ready in minutes and delicious.

3)    Eat slower. Put your fork or spoon down between bites, and focus on the flavors and textures of your food.

4)    Eat on a regular schedule. Try not to let more than about 4 hours go by between meals or snacks.

5)    Listen to your body  - after your body gets used to a regular eating pattern you should be able to rely on hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry, slow down, stop when you’re full. 

 

So, what do you think? Are you up for the experiment? If so please share your feedback and results. And if you’re already a clean food or Slow Food devotee or you’ve also visited Eataly or another store like it please add your comments!

P.S. To see more Eataly pics friend me on Facebook.

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