The science of using microbiome-balancing foods to aid in mental health recovery.

Food and meal plans are often among the most frequently asked questions for someone entering our Morningstar Women’s Residential Program and Morningstar Men’s Residential Program. With good reason! Here’s how we approach meals at the residential level of care.

Integrative Life Center proudly partners with Pinewood Kitchen, owned and operated by renowned wellness chef and best-selling author Mee McCormick, to bring farm-to-table, microbiome-friendly meals to clients in our Residential level of care.

All of the food from Pinewood Kitchen is non-GMO, seasonal, farm-to-table fare that contributes to all aspects of a person’s physical and mental health. With the expertise of Chef Mee and our Director of Nutrition Services, Mackenzie Reeser, MPH, RDN, LDN, we have the flexibility to make any necessary changes to a client’s meal plan based on dietary requirements, allergies, food sensitivities and/or ethical beliefs.

What does a healthy microbiome have to do with treatment?

Studies are showing that the bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and the gut microbiota, or the gut-brain-axis, is of significance in the treatment of mental health (amongst other things). Inflammation of the gut has been linked to severe mental illnesses including anxiety and depression. Therefore, restoring microbial balance has a potential role in the treatment of mental health. Chef Mee and the Pinewood Kitchen team have been developing microbiome-friendly recipes for nearly a decade. Now, this expertise is available to our clients at ILC.

How does it work?

The Healing Foods program at our Morningstar homes provides all the food our residents need each day. Food comes at a variety of stages of preparation: some dishes are pre-prepared by Pinewood Kitchen staff, while others arrive uncooked or disassembled with cooking instructions. This fusion allows residents to experience elements of real life, real world nourishment; including trying new recipes, experiencing new flavors, using recipes to cook meals, and building time to cook and eat into their days.

Mealtimes are scheduled into the programming day and staff are present to eat with and support residents during meals. Healing Foods menus are not only delicious and nutritious; they are also adjusted seasonally to provide variety. By participating in the Healing Foods program, residents will get the experience they need to heal well and build sustainable, nutritious habits into their recovery.

Who participates?

The Healing Foods program is available to all clients in our Morningstar Residential levels of care. Clients in the Music Row PHP program will also receive lunches through the Healing Foods program on weekdays.

What about clients in Morningstar Eating Disorders programming?

Clients who struggle with disordered eating will benefit from the Healing Foods program (dependent on level of care) to support their physical well-being. As a necessary complement, they will also have access to individual nutrition support from our Director of Nutrition Services to heal the fear, rigidity, or chaos they experience in their relationship with food. Our clients who come to us for help with their eating disorder will receive a full nutrition assessment upon admission. The results of this assessment may indicate that a client in this program needs a more individualized nutrition and meal plan to aid in their recovery. Integrative Life Center will accommodate this based on the recommendation of the Director of Nutrition Services.