Grocery shopping with your nutritionist is a lot like taking your mother with you to buy a bathing suit. You are going to hear some painful truths. But at the end of the day, you’ll probably make much better choices.
Our director of CoreNutrtion, Barbara Lincoln, took me on a whirlwind tour of Trader Joe’s yesterday. (Thank goodness, because we had a freak blizzard and Henry and I otherwise would have been reduced to a breakfast of pasta with Splenda this morning.)
We were focusing mainly on breakfast, lunch and snack foods, since I have a nasty habit of treating gas stations like they’re restaurants. I also have many days when I fail to eat enough to sustain life. Which is just murder on the metabolism. Especially when you have the metabolism of a 46-year-old … Not that I’m 46.
We began with the pre-made salad section. Lots of saturated fat-filled dressings, lots of hidden sugars and carbohydrates. Egads! I ate these all summer, feeling virtuous, nay, holy, as I did so. We took the egg white salad with chives and split.
We had more luck in the fresh fruits and vegetables section, as might be expected. I loaded up on pre-washed kale, organic baby carrots, Brussels sprouts, and red, yellow and orange peppers. We invested in lots of blueberries, my breakfast fruit of choice. Barbara gently steered me away from the bananas, distracting me with a bag of pretty little honey crisp apples. Then we bought more avocados than I think I’ve ever had in my life. Barbara loves avocados. “Put them in omelets! Chop them into a salad. You can have half an avocado at a time!” I thought: A fun drinking game would be to do a shot of tequila every time Barbara says avocado. But then I remembered it was 2 p.m. and we were in Trader Joe’s.
We picked up organic string cheese and these adorable little balls of goat cheese. “Have two while you’re making the kids dinner,” Barbara recommended. Done. Then I started heading towards the bread section, which is right next to my favorite part of the store, the Tasting Station. I sometimes feed Henry lunch there.
“Nope,” Barbara said, putting a well-muscled arm on the cart and steering us away.
“Unless the kids need bread for sandwiches?”
I was reaching toward those loaves of bread that come half-baked and make your house smell great while you pretend you’re baking bread. I could lie. I could tell her we were all out of bread. Except the kids never eat bread. They like a hot lunch. I paused, realizing that honesty is the cornerstone of the nutritionist-poor eater relationship. “No,” I mumbled.
“Nuts!” Barbara announced. We stocked up on mini bags of raw almonds. I wanted the ones with chocolate. Barbara did a bag-to-bag comparison on sugar and calories. I relented. But she let me buy a box of 100-calorie super dark chocolate bars for emergencies.
Then Barbara literally hugged a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to her chest: “This is like nectar,” she said. “Food of the gods.”
When we went by the beans, I picked up a can of garbanzos, thinking it made me look good. “It’s fine,” she said, “but they’re a carbohydrate. Don’t treat them like a protein.”
“Look at it this way, would you rather have beans or a glass of wine? Or beans or a piece of chocolate?” I threw down the can of beans as if it was on fire.
We bought canned salmon, something I truly thought only cats ate, and sardines (likewise). Barbara recommended I try the salmon with a tablespoon of real mayonnaise. It’s worth a shot. And she suggested I add the sardines to stewed tomatoes. I could imagine a yummy, puttanesca-like flavor. Without the pasta.
I brightened up considerably at the dairy section. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. We selected Greek yogurt (I like 2%), organic raw eggs, a bag of pre-hard-boiled eggs and whole milk for my coffee. Barbara nixed the organic raw coconut I love to sprinkle on my yogurt. “Blueberries and almonds are really enough, right? Aren’t you just using the coconut for the sweetness?” she asked.
“Doesn’t it have fiber?”
“Raw almonds and blueberries have fiber.”
No coconut. I will have to withdrawal from it slowly.
As we went to check out, I had the feeling that I had taken someone else’s cart by accident. Where were the Joe Joe cookies, the half-n-half? What happened to the frozen Indian food entrees? The bread?
And yet, today I found myself having green tea and an apple for a snack. An apple. I like apples in theory, but I had always thought the only people who actually ate them were third graders who packed their lunches. It was surprisingly delicious.
Some of Barbara’s favorites:
• Prepackaged raw almonds or cashews. Stash these little bags everywhere for a quick snack!
• String cheese (full fat) and mini balls of goat or brie cheese. A great food choice when you’re preparing dinner for the kids. Much better than, say, shoving a fistful of their mac-n-cheese into your mouth.
• Avocados. And more avocados.
• Apples. Pair one with string cheese between meals or spread raw almond butter on slices.
• Whole hardboiled eggs. Slice them into salads to add protein. Especially if, like me, you are trying not to eat meat.
• A rainbow of peppers and other fresh vegetables, including a good salad base like kale or chopped Brussels sprouts.
• Extra virgin olive oil. Made mostly of monounsaturated fats (unlike coconut oil, which is mostly saturated fat), it also has antioxidants.
• Dark chocolate. Because you deserve a treat. In moderation.
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