By Alyssa Ford, Experience Life
Turn on the local news, page through a magazine or scan a website, and you’re bound to be inundated with nutritional advice. The problem is that much of this advice sounds like abstract dictums — “Eat healthier!” “Make nutritious choices!” — that aren’t very helpful at the grocery store, where you’re faced with an empty cart and lots of tough calls.
To help us navigate this dilemma, five well-respected nutrition experts have graciously allowed us to (figuratively speaking) tag along on a routine shopping trip. They answered all kinds of questions about their personal grocery-buying habits, which we hope will provide some helpful inspiration and guidance on your next trip to the store.
Here’s our team:
- Liz Lipski, PhD, clinical nutritionist and the author of Digestive Wellness (McGraw-Hill, 2005), lives in Asheville, N.C.
- Kathie Swift, MS, RD, nutrition director at the UltraWellness Center, lives in Pittsfield, Mass.
- David Katz, MD, public health professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, lives in New Haven, Conn.
- Margaret Wittenberg, global vice president of Whole Foods Market and author of New Good Food (Ten Speed Press, 2008), lives in Fredericksburg, Texas.
- Rory Freedman, devoted vegan, self-taught nutrition buff and coauthor of Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (Running Press, 2007), lives in Los Angeles.
Stop No. 1 – Produce Section
For our crew of nutrition experts, the produce section is where the action is. Swift estimates that $50 of her $70 weekly food budget is spent on fresh produce — most of it certified organic and purchased at the supermarket and natural foods store close to her house. Freedman, too, is a produce fiend. Each week, she takes home a head of garlic, three or four zucchini, a bunch of kale, two bunches of celery, four or five cucumbers, one bunch of carrots, one head of red cabbage, one package of spinach, one package of mixed greens, one bunch of scallions, three tomatoes, four or five avocados, four apples, two oranges, two mangoes, two peaches, two young coconuts, two limes, two lemons, one bunch of bananas, one box of raspberries, one box of blueberries, and one box of strawberries. Whew! And all of that is just for her.
Katz uses an entire bag of prewashed organic mixed greens for his dinner salad. “I never met a leaf of lettuce I didn’t like,” he says gleefully.
Swift lets her senses guide her, knowing that the most vibrant and beautiful fruits and vegetables are the ones most likely in season. “There’s a reason the apples look so amazing in fall, and the strawberries so succulent in May,” she says. She also shops by color, making sure that her cart includes all the color groups — from dark green (arugula, bok choy, chard) to red-blues (berries, red cabbage, radicchio) to yellow-oranges (peaches, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe) and whites (garlic, cauliflower, potatoes).
Wittenberg generally knows what she needs when she walks through those sliding grocery-store doors, but she loves getting distracted in the produce aisle and letting her impulses take over. “The other day, the produce section had radicchio di Treviso, which I had never seen before, and I said to myself, ‘Oh, I gotta try that,’” she says. If she splurges on a decadent treat, this is where it happens. “We hadn’t planned it, but the other day my husband picked up some organic cherries that were just awesome.”
Produce-section tip: Pesticide levels vary among fresh produce. If you can afford to buy only some organically grown items, prioritize those that, when grown conventionally, are treated most heavily with pesticides and herbicides: lettuce, spinach, celery, red peppers, potatoes, apples, strawberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, grapes and pears.