Practice What They Preach
HM gets the skinny from local dietitians who share what they look and shop for.
by Arlene Karidis and photos by Turner Photography Studio
Not long ago, it was believed that eating fatty foods made you fat. No doubt you’ve often heard to “avoid cholesterol” or “watch out for farmed fish” — only to wind up discovering the opposite shortly later. There’s an on-going debate about GMOs, and the benefits of organic versus non-organic foods. To further complicate matters, there’s a new food label due to be released January 2020, with added nutritional information based on the latest concerns about what’s most important for con-sumers to know. So, we asked local dieticians for their take on what’s actually important for your health, and about how they shop.
Owner, Whole Health
Q: Do you buy bread, or do you follow the anti- bread movement?
I usually avoid the bread aisle, but I’m not anti-bread. It’s just that what’s in store-bought bread tends to have preservatives allowing it to stay on the shelf for weeks. It also has added synthetic B vitamins and dough conditioners like bromide — both of which can affect metabolism. But if a grocery has a bakery I might get it fresh from there or at a bakery shop. And I look for real food ingredients like flour, yeast, and salt versus preservatives.
Q: Do you gravitate to labels stating free of GMOs, gluten, and/or cholesterol?
I am a little concerned about GMOs, and I do think many people react to gluten, but I don’t think we know enough yet to make broad recommendations. I think most people have bigger issues to work on, like making sure they eat enough nutrient-dense food. Plus, that label tells you only so much. There’s junk food that’s free of GMOs, gluten, and cholesterol. Labels advertise foods are free of these things when some didn’t have them in the first place. For instance, cereal never has cholesterol — only animal products do. So, depending on the food, I don’t necessarily get swayed if the label says cholesterol-, gluten-, or GMO-free.
Q: What typically ends up in your cart and what are you looking for in these foods?
I live on a farm and we grow some of our own fruits and vegetables, and raise our own meat. But I fill in the gaps — usually at Weis where I buy frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. I also pick up fresh and frozen seafood. I look for simple ingredients. For instance, Turkey Hill all-natural ice cream is my favorite dessert. It’s basically eggs, cream, milk, vanilla, and sugar, while most ice creams have added gums and carrageenan, which aren’t good for digestion.
Nutritionist, Healing Circle Wellness Center
Q: How do you plan your grocery trip to not end up with wasted food — or conversely — be sure you have all you need for several balanced meals?
I create a meal plan for five or six dinners and cook enough to have leftovers for lunch. I make a grocery list from my meal plan and do it in the kitchen, so I can see what I already have. I also eat before I shop because I see all these beautiful, colorful foods and get ideas of what I can do. But I can overdo it — especially when I’m hungry. I follow my list for the most part, but I’m not too rigid. Maybe I put kale on the list, but the mustard greens look especially beautiful that day and are something I can add to what I’m making. I put produce on one side of my list and items like proteins and pantry foods on the other side. This helps me to not forget something.
Q: How important is organic to you, and how do you buy what’s healthy but not really expensive?
I personally buy local, organic produce. But I encourage other people to start where they are. The first step is to eat more whole, real foods, whether organic or not. If they are ready to try some organics, they can start with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of what’s most important to buy organic to avoid pesticides. I save money on healthy foods by buying in bulk, i.e. spices, nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. I save by buying seasonal and local produce, and cooking at home.
Q: Where do you shop?
I like to go to Common Market, MOM’s, and Wegmans because they carry a variety of local and organic options. I alternate between them to see what’s out. I am also a big fan of CSAs (community-supported agriculture) and farmers markets where you can buy local, fresh, in-season foods directly from farmers.
Q: The new label comes out in 2020. Will this affect how you shop?
I will definitely rely on the new label as a resource and am happy that serving size, and calorie count for that serving, will be in boldface. The label will provide information on three things in particular that I will use to decide what to buy. One is amount of added sugar, which was not specified before. And it must tell for the first time the amount of potassium and vitamin D — minerals we tend to be low in. My only concern is it’s made some serving sizes larger, so people may think they need to eat more than they actually do.
Q: Do you consider whether seafood is farmed or fresh, and what’s your take on frozen versus fresh?
I will ask at the market if it’s wild or farmed — though even if it’s farmed (unless it has a fishy odor) it’s typically healthy. With fresh fish, I look for firm flesh and clear eyes, which indicate good quality. Fresh shouldn’t be refrozen, so I ask if it has been frozen before. And I will only buy fresh if I am eating it that day or the next. Though with sushi, shellfish, and crustaceans, I would eat them only that day. I like local blue crab because I prefer the taste over other crab. In general, I like to eat a variety of fish, occasionally even what’s not considered the healthiest. I think the benefits of fish in general outweigh risk.
Q: What fish do you shop for, and why?
I buy light tuna rather than albacore, because it’s lower in mercury; and I like salmon, trout, herring, anchovies, and sardines, as they are also lower in mercury and higher in omega 3 fatty acids than many fish. I avoid shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish because they are high in mercury. I also like barramundi. It’s delicious, not expensive, and lower in calories and fat than some fish.