City Pulse

By Jen Wos

You find yourself staring at yet another take-out menu. You’re mid-dial. You catch a glimpse of your gym card lying on the counter. You shout in agony. Defeated again by General Tso and that chicken of his. Damn him.

menus-karen_mindful.jpg

Lauren Slayton and Caren Feingold Tishfield

Enter Mindful Menus, the brainchild of nutritionists Caren Feingold Tishfield and Lauren Slayton. The idea is simple: break it down, the menu, that is. So before you go hollering, “Over the lips and through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!” and hope your hips agree with your dinner decision, stop. There’s a better way.

While the gray and orange color scheme is less than comforting, the inside information Lauren and Caren gleaned from hitting up and tearing apart the food from dozens of NYC joints ranges, leaving you with responses from “I knew that was bad for me!” to “Heh, heh, oops, but it tastes oh so good!”

We put Sambuca to the test to see how Mindful Menus’ suggestions stacked up. Aside from our own personal guilt about eating Italian bread and nursing a glass of wine in front of two nutritionists, it was a delicious, fresh, and healthy family-style Italian dinner. You, our fearless City Pulse reader, won’t have to worry about the guilt factor as much; books have a tendency not to speak.

Each restaurant gets two pages with contact information and highlighted menu options on both ends of the spectrum. If you really want to motivate yourself to “be good,” read the “skip” items, complete with calorie and fat content so you can’t deny knowing. We’re talking 53 grams of fat in a Caesar salad, people! If you’re looking for the healthiest option, go for either the “Foodtrainers’ Favorite” items or the “Mindful Meals,” laid out simply in Chinese takeout boxes. If you’re not quite as strict, try anything listed, but remember your portion sizes, and use the conjunction “or” rather than “and” when your friend asks you what you want.

We did manage to learn a thing or two: for example, just because it’s vegetarian, doesn’t mean it’s healthy (it’s often far more caloric), and gluten-free pasta actually tastes good! It’s a little chewier than the original, but totally do-able, especially if someone you love has a wheat allergy. Lauren and Caren also stressed not be afraid to ask, especially if you’re chilling in your jammies when ordering. Most restaurants will accommodate your DOS (that’s dressing on the side) request or happily tell you if a certain ingredient was used in the dish.

Arm yourself with Mindful Menus, currently available for the Upper West Side and Upper East Side. Don’t fret if the view from your apartment isn’t Central Park; Downtown and Chelsea editions will be out soon. Hook yourself up at: www.foodtrainers.net.

Sambuca can be found at 20 72nd Street near Central Park West. For a complete menu, visit www.sambucanyc.com.

Originally published May 2007
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