Photos by Cheryl Ungar
Ever wanted to take a peek at what your own doctor, chiropractor, or favorite chef buys for herself and her family at the natural foods store? We sure have. So we asked three notable health gurus—a vegetarian chef, a naturopathic physician, and an acupuncturist—to spill the beans and tell us what they really cook up at home.
Casey's personal shopping tips
Lay out your list. "I always write my list on ruled notebook paper for some reason, and I separate entries by where the items are located in the store. I usually shop at the same store, but even if I don't, things are generally located in the same area from store to store."
Have recipes in mind. "It's a great idea to have some dishes in mind before you make your list, so you don't wind up getting pasta but no sauce. Also, when cooking from a recipe, remember that they are usually written loosely (except baked-goods recipes). So don't be scared if you forget or don't like parsley; leaving it out won't destroy the dish."
Stock up on staples. "When I'm shopping as a personal chef, I have dishes planned for my clients, so I shop for those meals. But I make sure that my clients always have most of my staples [at right] in their pantries."
Casey's typical grocery list
brown basmati rice
dried beans and legumes (black, azuki, navy, lentils) "I eat a lot of burritos because they are quick and healthy. To prepare dried beans, you first need to soak them in water for a couple of hours, depending on the type of bean. You can then boil them in water with seasonings, onions, and garlic. Never put salt in the water until the beans are thoroughly cooked or this will inhibit the bean from fully cooking, which will hurt your stomach. Cooked beans can be frozen, too. I put them in tortillas to make burritos, or in casserole-type dishes or soups, and, of course, in salads."
honey "I use honey in tea, in smoothies, and to cut the acidity of anything with too much vinegar, such as homemade salad dressings. If you are adding honey to a dressing, make sure the dressing and honey are at room temperature; it will just clump up if the dressing is too cold."
peanut butter, unsalted and freshly ground "If I buy it in jars, I use Justin's Nut Butter. Peanut butter is good on celery for a snack or on toast. I also use it frequently for peanut sauce—see my recipe."
raw tahini "Stores also sell it in jars, but I prefer it in bulk because it is fresher and doesn't separate as much. Blend tahini, lemon juice, freshly pressed garlic, water, and miso, and you've got a killer dressing or dip."
Canned, Bottled, and Other
coconut milk "I use coconut milk in sauces and soups. A great bean recipe is baking garbanzo beans with vegetables in coconut milk. Or buy Thai curry sauce and add it to the coconut milk, vegetables, and baked tofu."
green chili sauce "I use green chili to top burritos or eggs in the morning." juice, a couple of bottles "Cook grains in apple juice: half water, half juice."
olives from the olive bar
rice or soba noodles
tortilla chips "My favorite snack!"
eggs "I use free-range eggs, either hard-boiled or fried. Great protein."
miso "Miso is fermented soybean paste, and it's really good for you. Add it to plain vegetable broth for miso soup, or as mentioned with tahini for a great dip. It's also good for marinating. Never boil it, because that ruins its nutritional value."
plain yogurt "For dips and in place of sour cream."
tempeh "I usually crumble up tempeh and sauté it with onions and olive oil, then add barbecue sauce—just out of the bottle is fine—and it's a Sloppy Joe."
tofu "I cut up tofu into cubes, coat it with sesame oil and tamari, and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. These cubes are good in dishes where you might see chicken, in salads, and to eat plain."
Sambazon açai "This is a Brazilian superfood. It's great for smoothies and snacks, and it's really, really good for you. I eat it every day."
veggie burgers "I serve garden burgers with fun toppings on bread instead of a bun. Try sautéed onions and blue cheese. Or with roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese. They also go well with steamed mixed vegetables."
Oils and Vinegars
olive oil "For everything!"
toasted sesame oil
baby carrots "Great for snacks."
bananas, apples, kiwi, pears, oranges, strawberries "Fruits and dried fruits are a perfect snack and great for breakfast, too. I love putting half-and-half in a big bowl of strawberries and bananas. And you can add apples, pears, and dried fruits to salads."
butternut squash "Butternut squash is a warming winter food. Try peeling it with a good potato peeler, then seeding and dicing it into large cubes and baking it in maple syrup and olive oil or butter."
chard "The chard can be cooked with onions and a little olive oil and sea salt. Yum!"
fresh cilantro "Cilantro goes with almost all ethnic foods."
lemon, lime "Citrus, especially lemon and lime, are wonderful accents to almost any dish: a squeeze of lime on Mexican or Thai food, fresh lemon in a dressing, or even in your water."
poblano and Anaheim peppers "These two peppers are always so much cheaper than bell peppers and have a great flavor. I don't think I have bought a green bell in years."
prepackaged and washed spinach "So much easier than cleaning spinach, which is generally really dirty. Plus, the quality of prepackaged spinach is excellent."
red leaf and romaine lettuce "I eat lots of salads and add tofu or nuts or hard-boiled egg for protein and make it a whole meal with soup."
Roma tomatoes "Roma tomatoes always seem to be more flavorful year-round, whereas regular tomatoes are only really great at summer's end."
sweet potatoes "I put sweet potatoes in my breakfast burrito rather than russets or Yukons. Try substituting sweet potato wherever you use a regular potato, as in hash browns or for a baked potato."
Nancy's personal shopping tips
Get healthy basics. "Having a family of four keeps me challenged in terms of creating meals that everyone will eat. Every time I shop for food I buy fresh fruits and veggies to supplement what's coming out of my garden, and whatever I might need to make dinner that evening. I tend to go grocery shopping three to five times a week, with one of those times being a larger trip."
Aim for organic. "I believe first and foremost that all the foods in our diets need to be as fresh and as organic as possible, and unprocessed. I also like to eat seasonally, for the most part, even though so much is available any time of the year from around the world. This is more along the lines of eating to maintain health from a Chinese medicine perspective."
Go slow on the sugar. "I do buy organic sugar for baking and making my own kombucha at home. Kombucha is a fermented tea and sugar product that used to be popular in the '70s. Now it has made a resurgence, like many things. As a 'living' food, it includes probiotics and enzymes, which are good for digestion and the immune system, and which some say help treat and prevent many conditions, including cancers."
Don't give in to picky eaters. "We have a rule at our house that they have to try everything once. It's one thing if my kids don't like something, but they at least have to try it. For picky eaters, keeping things separate on their plates is sometimes a strategy, because most kids don't like things mixed up or complicated. Most kids go through at least one picky phase. It is important not to give in to whatever they want and not make a big deal if they choose not to eat what is served. They usually opt to eat sooner or later."
Nancy's typical grocery list
butter "Organic salted and unsalted for baking."
cheeses—cow and goat/sheep "For lunches and cooking."
cultured cottage cheese "I get cravings for this once in a while!"
eggs "Eggs are mostly for breakfast in our house and some baking, like for spinach pie or muffins."
goat's milk "My son digested this best when he weaned years ago and still drinks it. I also enjoy this milk. In general, goat's milk is more easily digested than cow's milk."
nonfat cow's milk
tofu and tempeh "I like to use these in stir-fries with veggies, rice noodles, and spicy peanut, miso, or some other sauce."
teas "We have a variety of fruit teas, and all kinds of green teas, a few black, and puerh—an aged green or black Chinese tea that I like very much. The green teas are healthful for many conditions. They are high in antioxidants and so are anti-inflammatory, help balance blood sugar fluctuations, and [have] other benefits."
fruits "Frozen fruits are great in smoothies—mixed berries, bananas, peaches—and sometimes for sauces and snacks."
ice cream "We buy ice cream that is as natural as possible—no stabilizers or artificial stuff in it."
pizza pockets "Amy's makes a cheese one that the kids love after school."
sprouted tortillas "Sprouting seeds makes them more digestible and it becomes a 'live' food, meaning it can provide beneficial enzymes and probiotics."
Grains, Flours, Beans
dried beans and legumes (bulk) "I buy all kinds of beans, such as azuki, black beans, black-eyed peas, and all types of lentils, which I use in soups, pasta dishes, and salads."
nonwheat pancake mix "I use this not just for pancakes but for making muffins. I choose nonwheat just to have something different than wheat all the time. It's also nice to have it available for allergy-prone people."
organic spelt and other flours "I like spelt as a wheat alternative and use others, such as oat and rice."
seeds and nuts "We buy cashews, almonds, filberts, pine nuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds for recipes, salads, and snacks."
whole grains "This includes brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa, and amaranth."
agave nectar "This is useful in baking and just about anything else. It comes from the agave cactus and has a low glycemic index compared with sugar. This is important for anyone with blood sugar regulation problems."
almond or peanut butter
honey "For baking, and the kids always like honey!"
olive oil "I cook mostly with olive oil but also canola and others, such as safflower and sesame."
sugar "As unprocessed as possible."
Vegenaise "This is a fresh 'mayonnaise' made with soy and veggie oils; it's not as heavy as regular mayo."
fresh, sliced, natural turkey for lunches
meat and fish, as needed daily for dinners "I buy naturally raised or local chicken, turkey, or beef or wild-caught fish a couple of times a week."
fresh fruits and vegetables "This is the bulk of what I buy. Lots of leafy greens and whatever is in season."
cookies "Natural graham crackers, fig bars, nonwheat cookies, bakery-made oatmeal raisin cookies. We all like cookies at our house, and we make them, too."
crunchy munchies, such as wild rice sticks or rice crackers
Chip's personal shopping tips
Don't be frugal about your food. "Why eat Velveeta when you can have Stilton? I live in a town where I have access to high-quality meats and produce, and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford them. Having said that, if there's a choice between sketchy-looking organic produce and beautiful, locally grown conventional produce, we opt for the latter."
Choose what's in season. "My wife and I cook on alternate nights. Most of the food I cook is prepared very simply, mostly because that's all I can manage. We shop every day, choosing whatever looks good. We eat as broadly as possible and avoid having the same foods more than once a week."
Truly enjoy your food. "A lot of people get all twisted around foods that are 'bad' for them. But our overall health and our quality of life are much more than just physical health. So it's a matter of a bit of calculus. Will consuming a particular food improve the quality of your life? If the overall answer is 'yes,' then maybe it's OK to have that cup of coffee or that glass of wine with a friend. On the other hand, if eating half a baguette or a pint of ice cream puts you in a fog for a week, then maybe it's best not to eat that. If you decide to go ahead and have that cup of coffee, then really enjoy it, don't rush it, savor it … and don't look back."
Chip's typical grocery list
cheese "In moderation—lots of different kinds."
Recharge fruit juice–based sports drink
basmati rice "I eat grains in moderation, mostly because I digest them poorly. We don't eat much bread. I do, however, love pizza, and I make it a point to have a pizza and a big glass of Cabernet at least once a month."
Fish and Meat
fish "We eat as many different kinds of fish as we can, wild-caught whenever possible. And we choose whatever type of salmon is running in the spring."
fowl "Duck, turkey, and chicken."
lamb "We eat lamb much more frequently than beef."
asparagus "In spring."
corn "In late summer."
Hatch green chilies "In autumn."
leafy greens "We eat lots of leafy greens but eat raw vegetables sparingly, except in the summer. Chinese medical dogma holds that raw foods are hard on the digestion. In general, I believe that this is true. We do frequently have salads consisting of raw bitter greens, but the majority of the ingredients are cooked. The onion, the green beans, the peppers or chilies, are often grilled. Even the pine nuts are roasted."
peaches "In midsummer."
squash "In fall and winter."
Snacks and Other
Jena Hofstedt is a frequent contributor to Delicious Living.