Health & Wellness Trendsetters are leading the way in helping people live healthier, happier lives by changing their eating and exercise habits so that they can maintain a healthy weight and keep their bodies moving.
Health and Wellness Dining in Southern California
Maria Pourteymour is the Co-founder and Chief Cuisine Officer at Luna Grill, which was founded in 2004 and has since become a fixture in healthy dining and catering throughout Southern California. Luna Grill is known for its fresh and healthy Mediterranean cuisine. The majority of the menu items are made in-house, from scratch. Luna offers one of the few healthy kids menus around and is a great option for vegans and vegetarians. When I’m eating out at lunchtime, Luna is my first choice!
Health & Wellness Trendsetters: Interview with Maria Pourteymour
1. What is your background?
I am a native San Diegan of Greek descent. My parents opened their first restaurant when I was nine years old, so I grew up in the restaurant business in San Diego and my grandparents also owned a Taverna in Greece. In terms of my culinary skills, I am self-taught with a strong influence of Greek and Persian cuisine.
2. What inspired/motivated you to get into the health and wellness field?
I became interested in nutrition and exercise while studying at UCLA, but what really inspired my desire to open a restaurant that serves wholesome, nutritious food was the birth of my daughter. It was then that I realized the importance of what we put in our bodies, especially during our crucial formative years.
Having a sensitivity to MSG, I was also motivated to reduce as much as possible additives and unnatural preservatives in the food we were consuming. In 2004, there weren’t a lot of options for individuals that were eating on the run to find wholesome, clean food to eat and I realized that there was definitely an untapped market for individuals and families alike.
3. What is most rewarding to you about your profession?
Winning over kids and turning them into Luna Fans! I have witnessed firsthand children who were afraid to try anything other than chicken nuggets and quesadillas, finally get up the courage to try something new at Luna Grill and love it. Replacing breaded and fried chicken with marinated and simply grilled chicken, dipped in yogurt sauce, with a side of cucumbers and simply prepared rice is my idea of a win when it comes to getting kids on the right path to eating better.
I also love the creative aspect of coming up with new recipes, or reinventing traditional recipes by adding ingredients like quinoa or serranos.
4. As a trendsetter, what do you predict will be the next big trend in your industry?
I think as we move more towards sustainability and healthy eating, there will be a big push in innovation when it comes to plant based proteins that have the same texture, appearance and even flavor profile as animal based proteins. The new plant based burgers that are a delicious alternative to the traditional burger will in my opinion gain a lot of traction. Creative ways to add more vegetables and fiber accompanied with healthful fats will continue to be a primary focus in our daily eating as well.
5. What tips/advice would you give for someone trying to achieve optimal health?
Don’t try and overhaul everything at once. Taking small steps that you will be able to maintain over the long run will be more effective than trying to change everything at once and setting yourself up for failure. I believe that there is a strong mind/body connection, so it is important to take a holistic approach to wellness. When we clean up our insides by engaging in daily yoga, meditation, and exercise that makes us happy we will natural crave and seek out food that will support our healthy lifestyle.
6. What is your favorite healthy meal?
My favorite healthy meal is a traditional Greek Village salad with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and red bell pepper, garnished with Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil, a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar and dried oregano. When I am indulging, I will add a slice of Feta Cheese and a slice of whole grain bread.
Connect with Health & Wellness Trendsetter Maria Pourteymour on Luna Grill’s website and social media: