Flight offers a lesson in mindful eating

Farm Forum

“We have reached a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Sit back and enjoy the flight,” the pilot announced.

En route to the East Coast, I settled in to read a magazine for the next 2 1/2 hours. Although I have never been able to sleep on planes, I appreciate getting to places quickly.

Unfortunately, in my haste to squeeze into my assigned seat, I grabbed a magazine I already had read. My backpack with more reading material was wedged securely under the seat in front of me.

I couldn’t extract my backpack without disturbing the snoring stranger beside me or dismantling the seat in front of me. Neither option seemed to be a good idea.

So I pulled the flight magazine out of the seat pocket and read it in 10 minutes, leaving me two hours and 20 minutes to pass staring at the back of a seat.

I decided I needed a more substantial snack than the tiny handful of peanuts in the foil packet that had been offered. The flight magazine described a couple of options for snack boxes; one was fairly healthful and the other filled with foods I regularly remind people to “limit.”

I was tempted. After all, I was soaring above the clouds wedged against a window surrounded by strangers. No one would tease me about being a nutrition specialist eating a box packed full of cookies, chips and candy.

Despite the temptation, I chose the Mediterranean “gourmet” treat collection. Savory treats sounded more tempting and filling.

My snack package contained foods traditionally associated with the Mediterranean diet, including hummus (chickpea dip), pita bread, almonds, apricots, olives, whole-grain crackers and a tomato and basil-based spread. Rounding out my snack was a piece of dark chocolate.

Many of us are distracted when we eat, so we may not even taste our foods as we snack while watching TV, working on a computer or reading. I had no distractions.

Actually, eating a snack was distracting me from the fact that I was 35,000 feet off the ground in a pressurized tube. Did I mention that flying is not my favorite pastime?

I opened each of the little packets and slowly savored each of my treats, one at a time. This was mindful eating at its best. My full attention was on my food. Although the food wasn’t freshly made, I enjoyed the contrasting textures and flavors.

I have to remember to slow down and savor my food every day, I thought to myself.

Many of the foods in my snack pack were typical of some of the foods in the well-documented Mediterranean diet, which is linked with reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. One study showed that middle-aged women following this diet live a healthier, longer life.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and legumes, such as dry beans and chickpeas, are emphasized in the Mediterranean diet. Most people following the Mediterranean diet enjoy a small handful of nuts daily.

The Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish and seafood twice a week. No food groups are eliminated in this diet, so poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt and lean meats all play a role in the diet. Red wine is an option, as well.

By the time I finished my snack, my seat partner had awakened and I had a chance to extract a new magazine from my backpack. Before long, I was at my destination with a fresh outlook and a plan to slow down and pay closer attention to my food.

Here’s a unique twist on a fiber-rich dip to accompany crisp apple slices or graham crackers.

Dessert Hummus

1 (14.5-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1/4 c. maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Blend together the beans, peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract by hand or in a blender or food processor. Stir chocolate chips into mixture. Serve as a dip with apple slices or a spread on graham crackers.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 95 calories, 4 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of protein, 4 g of carbohydrate, 2.5 g of fiber and 40 milligrams of sodium.