Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grocery Shopping for Health & Fitness

Grocery shopping on a budget for health and fitness is this week's theme.

And the person I took grocery shopping with me at Whole Foods recently is all about health and fitness.

Bonni Doherty is an executive fitness coach and she wanted budget-wise tips for her clients whom she encourages to eat small, highly nourishing meals throughout the day -- in fact, as many as eight small meals per day!

Eight small meals a day adds up to a lot of food each week, so obviously tips for finding the best deals at WFs is of great use to Bonni and her clients.

We started in WFs fresh produce section, where I recommend everyone start their shopping. If you're on a budget, and if you have dietary concerns such as ...
  • you're on a weight-loss diet
  • you're gluten-sensitive or intolerant
  • you're doing a spring cleanse
  • you're on a fitness program
  • you want to eat healthily
then the bulk of your groceries should be fresh vegetables and some fruits.

I pointed out the fresh produce on sale to Bonni. What's on Sale is clearly marked in WFs and depending where you are in the U.S. your store will mark it with the following signs:
And because we're well into the growing season, fresh produce is plentiful now. Therefore, every week lots of vegetables and fruits are on sale making them a healthy buy at a great price.

Bonni made a beeline for the leafy greens: kale, chard, spinach, and mustard greens. Because dark leafy greens are a super-food full of antioxidants, B encourages all her clients to consume plenty of greens, and also beets for their nutrient content.

There are a number of different varieties of beets, the most obvious are red and golden beets. Because of their color, red beets have a high iron content, which B particularly likes, given the importance of feeding a highly active body iron.

I sometimes enjoy golden beets. A couple of weeks ago I was down to an empty fridge bar a golden beet and a few other items. I challenged myself to come up with several meal ideas with the golden beet and here's what I made.

Most people overlook the fact that beets are like two vegetables in one, the bulbous root and the leafy green tops. In that regard, they're not only a great vegetable for health and vitality; they're also a two-for-one vegetable for people shopping on a budget.

Tips on Purchasing and Cooking Leafy Greens:
  • Always buy organic leafy greens; they grow low to the ground and thus are more likely to contain a high level of pesticide residue if not organic.
  • Buy beet bunches with healthy looking green tops or leaves. Wash and remove the green leaves from the stalks and eat them as you would any leafy green.
  • WFs often has braising greens in their bins of loose greens. Their braising greens are mixed leaves of kale, chard, beet leaves, radicchio, mustard greens. And for around $6.99 lb it's a great deal since you're buying the edible leaf only, not the inedible woody stalks.
  • Braising greens are best when braised, either tossed gently in a pan with olive oil, or sauteed with a little butter and garlic.
Next, B headed for the celery. "A great snack food," she said. I agree, and often organic celery (and the leafy greens) come on sale at WFs for under $2.99 a bunch, so be on the look out.

Tips on Incorporating Celery into Your Meals:
  • Wash stalks and cut into chunks for dipping or for a raw snack as is.
  • Celery is a great, slightly bitter juice for those on a spring-cleanse diet. If you have a juicer, try it plain, or juiced with carrots and or apples to sweeten it slightly.
  • Because celery is most often eaten raw, we don't think to cook it, but it's delicious tossed in with say, braising greens, or sauteed with other vegetables in stir fry.
  • Add celery to casseroles with onions and carrots and other root vegetables.
  • Bake fish on top of a bed of chopped celery, carrots, onions, garlic and dill with a little white wine drizzled over the lot.
  • Celeriac is a kind of celery grown as a root vegetable. Best cooked like a root vegetable, it makes the most delicious creamed soup.
Bonni isn't a big proponent of sweet fruits because of the simple sugar content. Her clients are generally working toward optimum fitness and health and for that reason she steers them away from simple sugars and toward vegetables which offer phytonutrients plus fiber.

Tomorrow, I'll post more on my shopping trip around Whole Foods with Bonni, sharing what I learned from her, regarding the kind of diet she recommends to her clients, and the tips I shared with her for finding the food she recommends at the best price.

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