Eating Wisely: Bright Flavors (Part 2)

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Retreat-center chefs know that one of the keys to making healthful food appealing is to include a variety of colors and textures in each dish. “That old saying ‘We eat first with our eyes’ applies to everything I prepare,” says Roa. “The bold use of color is very appetizing and so easy [to achieve] in all seasons with vegetables.”

Description: Kerala Red Rice+Roasted Yellow Moong Dal, Vegetables, Curry leaves

Kerala Red Rice+Roasted Yellow Moong Dal, Vegetables, Curry leaves

In your own cooking, think about balancing colors and textures as well as flavors. Tops a bowl of rice and colorful curried vegetables with crunchy toasted peanuts, shaved coconut, and a few torn fresh cilantro leaves. Add crisp, paper-thin slices of raw fennel to a salad of roasted red and gold beets and curly baby spinach leaves. Accompany a smoothly pureed red pepper soup with a dollop of bright pesto and a crunchy toasted crouton. When your food is a sensory pleasure, you’ll enjoy it until the last bite.

Add a flavorful finishing touch

Description: papaya salad

papaya salad

A drizzle of flavored vinegar, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice – bright, acidic ingredients like these are one of the reasons that dishes prepared for you on retreat sing with flavor. To put flavorful finishing touches on dishes you cook at home, experiment with freshly squeezed citrus juice and see how just a teaspoon or two can highlight the flavor of soups, salads, vegetables, and fresh fruit.

In addition to fresh lime juice, mild rice vinegar is a favorite ingredient of Inglizian, who drizzles it over slices of cucumber and papaya to make a sweet and tangy salad. “It’s so simple,” she says, “but it really stands out to people.”

Be in balance

Description: you should eat your biggest meal of the day at midday

you should eat your biggest meal of the day at midday

Conventional wisdom says you should eat your biggest meal of the day at midday, with a lighter meal in the evening. But warm weather and activity-filled days call for light, easily digested midday meals that leave you satisfied but not so full that you’re groggy in the afternoon.

At Prana del Mar in Los Cabos, Mexico, guest have a light snack of fruit first thing in the morning, followed by a heartier breakfast after morning practice. The midmorning meal “gives that digestive fire substantial fuel for the rest of the day, to help with the recovery of the muscles and to energize the more subtle systems of the body,” says founder Erik Singer. Since afternoon practice is only a few hours away, lunch is a lighter meal that might include salad greens, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruit and veggies.

Whether your days are filled with meetings and carpools or yoga classes and beach time, you can balance your energy throughout the day by eating lightly before periods of activity and making every meal a combination of fresh produce, whole grains, and protein-rich plant foods such as beans and legumes. “For the midday meal, I like to focus on complex carbohydrates like wild rice, quinoa, and all sorts of beans,” says Jean-Baptiste Belledent, the owner of Xinalani in Puerto Vallarta. “This takes care of the high energy needs of the day instead of giving you peaks of power and letting you down when you really need it.”

Sate your sweet tooth natural

Description: sweet tooth natural

sweet tooth natural

When you satisfy your sweet tooth retreat-style, you might be surprised at how the taste of foods like fresh fruit, dates, coconut, and raw honey edges out the desire for more refined, processed desserts. Shift your palate by making a habit of indulging in naturally sweet treats. At Xinalani, the cooks blend ripe mango pulp and freeze it for a smooth sorbet without added sugar, something you could also try with ripe strawberries, peaches, or melon, “The natural sweetness of fruit gives you the same rush of pleasure and energy,” Belledent says.

At Sagrada Wellness,, Inglizian makes an icy, thirst-quenching agua fresca form just three ingredients: ripe watermelon, fresh lime juice, and water. “You could add a little agave if you like, but usually the pure sweetness of the watermelon is enough,” she says.

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