With the plentiful amount of fresh baked goods at your fingertips throughout the holidays and the siren song of comfort food calling to you as the temperatures drop, it can be difficult to keep healthy eating at the forefront of your priorities. But with a health-food superstore opening up in your backyard, healthy dining options expanding seemingly by the day, and progressive nutritionists flexible enough to fit in your hectic lifestyle, our neighborhood is the perfect place to be to keep your habits in check.
Back to the Urban Earth Movement
Recently, the long-awaited Whole Foods finally opened its Gowanus location (214 3rd Street). This behemoth of a store has taken care to honor its new Brooklyn home by stocking its shelves with products sourced locally from around the borough. Highlights include a takeout noodle shop by Smorgasburg fave Yuji Ramen, a rooftop bar serving up local brews and bites, and a rooftop greenhouse which, through a collaboration with New York’s premier rooftop greenhouse company Gotham Greens, supplies some of the food found in its produce section. Gotham Greens has been supplying the other Whole Foods locations in the city since opening their flagship farm in Greenpoint in 2011, so they were a natural fit for the rooftop project. Co-founders Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, as well as Greenhouse Director Jennifer Nelkin, created a technologically-advanced controlled environment system that resulted in the ability to provide local, fresh food year-round that will now be applied to the rooftop farm of Whole Foods in Gowanus.
Gotham Green’s sophisticated climate control systems create an environment that is not only highly productive, but sustainable and ecologically-friendly too. Sensors throughout the greenhouse monitor factors like temperature, humidity, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and light-levels that then trigger computer-controlled components to create the ideal growing atmosphere, no matter what the weather is like outside. Powered by on-site solar panels, the whole process is surprisingly energy-efficient. They also make use of a closed-loop irrigation system, allowing them to reuse all of the water put into the system and to use twenty times less water, which—when agriculture is the number one use for fresh water—makes a big impact compared to Gotham Green’s more traditional counterparts. On top of that, not using chemical pesticides eliminates the risk of run-off to the watershed. With all of this taken into account, Gotham Green’s farms have the capability to produce twenty to thirty times greater the harvest per acre than field-based farms.
At the Whole Foods location, the majority of that production will be leafy greens, herbs, and tomatoes. Shoppers can swipe up hyperlocal greens like butter lettuce, spring mix, arugula, and kale, as well as heirloom, cherry, grape, and several other varieties of tomatoes. Of course, all this produce will be organic and GMO-free. While the greenhouse itself will be open to employees only, there will be a viewing area and self-guided tour right outside if you find yourself curious while shopping or drinking over at the bar. If you’ve heard the recent buzz and have been intrigued by rooftop farming, this will finally be your chance to see it up close and in action.
Around the World in 80 Dishes
While committing to a healthier diet may have you turning to your own kitchen more often, sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a night out. Thankfully, Brooklyn has a wide variety of healthy dining options to choose from, and among the most interesting is Prospect Heights newcomer, Mason and Mug (708 Washington Avenue). Opened last November by Itta Werdinger Roth—founder of the popular kosher supper club, The Hester—and Sasha Chack—former Food and Beverage Director of 92Y Tribeca—this kosher pescatarian establishment specializes in small plates inspired by global street food. The cozy, casual space is the perfect neighborhood spot featuring an open kitchen, a few high top wooden tables, a small backyard, chalkboard menus, and a street art-inspired mural displayed on one of the walls. The inviting atmosphere calls out for a quick bite before heading out on the town.
The ever-rotating menu will draw inspiration from Roth and Chack’s multicultural upbringing. Roth is Australian and of Eastern European Jewish heritage, and has traveled frequently in Israel while living in New York—a lot of the dishes will have a nod to Chack’s extensive traveling in Southeast Asia. At Mason and Mug’s opening, these influences came together in dishes like the Daikon Carrot-Ginger Soup with Seaweed and Beech Mushrooms, a banh mi with pickled daikon and carrots, pressed tofu, cilantro, cucumber, and fish sauce, and a fish taco with pickled red cabbage, avocado, and jalapeno-cilantro mayo. Having a variety of small plates available, they hope, will encourage people to try new things and introduce them to new kinds of cuisine.
Don’t pass over their delicious smoked fish and cheese boards—at $13 and $12 respectively, they are some of the best bargains in the borough. The details of the boards will vary slightly, but each offers an array of delights that is difficult to beat. The fish board, at the time of this writing, included Acme’s Pastrami Lox, lemon pepper lox, smoked mackerel, and smoked whitefish accompanied by a sharp mustard dill sauce and marble rye (the good stuff), while the cheese board featured aged havarati, Bastardo del Grappa, and Pecorino with sourdough bread and apple pepper preserves. Wash all of this down with something from their short-but-sweet bar menu of local beers and wines. Then, take a peek at their corner of goods to go that includes obscure Israeli snacks, condiments, homemade breads, and groceries—including their pickles that are made in-house. And if you didn’t get your fill of lox at dinner, be sure to check out their Lox and Bagel Brunch on Sundays. It’s the perfect fit in the neighborhood’s expanding dining scene.
A Resolution’s Helping Hand
Juice cleanses. Drastic diets destined to fail. An unpronounceable supplement regimen. These are all the hallmarks of a person at the turn of a new year, looking back in horror at their eating habits of the previous month and vowing to make a change for the better as their Resolution—and this time, they really mean it. They slip a little more each week until, finally, they’re back to their old ways merely a few months (if not weeks) into the year. It’s the same old story year after year. Only, maybe this time, it can be different with just a little help. That’s where Jennifer Schonborn comes in (jenniferschonborn.com). Taking a holistic approach to her services, Schonborn may be a bit different than what you typically expect from a nutritionist. Understanding that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all rules for dieting, Schonborn will take a more expansive approach into her treatment options. The first step is getting to know you. How are you sleeping? What are your stress levels like? What type of exercise do you do? How is your career and your relationships going? Our relationship with food is at the center of all of this, and once it’s all taken into account, Schonborn can create a deeply personalized approach to your nutrition.
There are several ways to take advantage of Schonborn’s nonclinical one-on-one setting. Her most recommended program is her Six-Month Program, based on the theory that six months is how long it takes to fully develop or break habits. The longer time period allows you to focus on a series of small, gradual changes rather than being thrown a pile of huge, daunting changes that you’d be more likely to give up on. Having more successes—no matter how small—builds confidence and the likelihood that you will stick to your goals as a whole. The program includes two, hour-long sessions a month, email support in between sessions, a monthly wellness newsletter, and any books, handouts, food samples, or self-care products that are deemed helpful. If you don’t have room for a six-month commitment, there are several other options to choose from including a three-month program, a One-Week Detox Program, and as little as a Six-Day Stress-Reduction Package. These can be carried out in person or over the phone, but since Schonborn is based in Park Slope, she’s likely to be just a few blocks away. If you’re unsure which is the best choice for you, or even if this would be a good fit, Schonborn always offers free one-hour consultations, which can be scheduled on her website.
Put simply, Schonborn’s philosophy is that whole, natural, real food nourishes us better physically, emotionally, and mentally. If we stop the emphasis on convenience and speed, it can lead to making better food choices by focusing on more green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats, and cutting red meat, processed food, sugar, and dairy as much as possible. Schonborn suggests that the easiest way to stay healthy in the winter is to focus on supporting the immune system by remembering to exercise, catching up on sleep, working to reduce stress, and increasing our intake of leafy vegetables and whole grains. Try to cook at home as much as you can, and remember to focus on making small goals day-by-day to avoid getting discouraged. At this time of year, there will be a million tips thrown your way about how to put your New Year’s Resolutions into practice, so if you need guidance, encouragement, and accountability, Jennifer Schonborn can help tailor the best approach to nutrition for you.