Why Your Grocery List Needs a MakeoverIf someone were to blindfold me, spin me around, and set me loose in my neighborhood grocery store, I'd still manage to fill my basket with the usual suspects. After all, when you get the same eight items every time, you don't need good vision-the routine is engrained in your muscle memory.
But while I take pride in the fact that my weekly grocery run rarely exceeds 20 minutes or $20, it does make me question my sense of adventure. I've climbed Guatemalan volcanoes, whitewater rafted through the Grand Canyon, belted Johnny Cash during karaoke (in his octave, mind you), and subjected myself to countless other physically, emotionally, and socially risky endeavors without so much as a blush. But ask me to trade in my Granny Smith for a Gala? Now that gives me anxiety.
So in honor of spring, the season of new beginnings, I'm committing to skydiving, trapezing, and-wait for it-freshening up my grocery list. If you've found yourself in a similar rut, I encourage you to join me. With the help of Rachel Morris, the demo specialist at my local Whole Foods and blogger at thesinglebite.com, who offered to give me a much-needed "consultation," this spring just might be the most thrilling season of all.
Celebrate the SeasonIf you looked at my closet, you'd know the time of year. Coats and sweater dresses signify winter; sundresses and bright prints say, "Hello, spring!" My fridge, on the other hand, is seasonally stagnant. That's not good. "It's great to buy things when you know they are at their best," says Morris. Buying what's in season means fewer preservatives, more nutrients, and optimum flavor. It also often means less cash. This spring, Morris recommends going (leafy) green. Top your pizza with arugula; swap your Romaine with kale for a heartier Caesar, and enjoy Swiss chard sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Asparagus is another great springtime veggie-eat it on its own topped with pesto, or throw it into pasta or a stir-fry. For a seasonal sweet treat, try Morris's new obsession: the champagne mango. "They're kind of buttery, always sweet, and always delicious," she says. Looks like my apple-a-day may have some competition after all.
Take a SwapportunityMost of us would rather get a cute new 'do or fresh floral frock than star in Extreme Makeover. Similarly, making over your grocery list doesn't have to mean a total overhaul. Simple swaps (like trading dairy milk for soy or almond milk) are a minor commitment with potentially major rewards. "It's good to have variety in your diet," says Morris, a vegetarian who likes to alternate between pinto and black beans. "Different things are higher in this or higher in that." Nuts are a good case in point. Almonds and cashews are high in magnesium, but walnuts rock in the healthy omega-3 fat category. Peanuts are packed with folate, while Brazil nuts get high marks in selenium content. Change up your afternoon snack or mix 'em all together for maximum nourishment-and maximum satisfaction, too.
Spice it UpWe all need a creative outlet, and for Morris, that outlet is food. Grocery shopping, concocting new recipes, and cooking are all parts of her artistic process. But when Morris's creative juices run dry, she turns to the international foods section. "This is where I get inspired," she told me as we perused the aisle in Whole Foods. And it was easy to see why. Feeling like Thai food? Pick up some peanut sauce. What about Asian? Teriyaki is delish. Want to transport your senses to India? Curry should do the trick. Sauces and seasonings cost little, last long, and alone can transform a bland block of tofu or chicken breast into a multicultural delight. Even if you can't jet across the globe, treat your taste buds to a vacay.
Open Your EyesAlthough I've never actually shopped blindfolded, my consultation with Morris showed me that I have been shopping with blinders on. I never knew that my store has a machine that dispenses honey, that lentils come in purple, or that quinoa is a complete protein. "You can't try something new if you don't open your eyes," said Morris, who recommends taking your trip in the morning, when things are neater and the atmosphere is calmer. Turns out, grocery shopping can actually be a fun experience-not a race to the register.
As Morris showed me, spring cleaning your grocery list doesn't have to be time-consuming, expensive, or scary (unlike skydiving, trying a new food probably won't kill you). And if you don't like it? There's always tomorrow.
This article was originally published on The Daily Muse. For more healthy living tips, check out:
The Real Scoop on Sugar
5 Secrets to Making Quick, Healthy Meals at Home
The Big Benefits of Eating What's in Season
About the Author: Anna Miller is a health writer in Washington, D.C., where she's been published in The Washington Post and US News & World Report. She is a proud Michigan Wolverine, beer enthusiast, and two-time marathoner who can't go a day without peanut butter. On any one day, you may find her rehearsing for a community theater musical, working her way into an embassy party, running around the Washington Monument in her underwear (ok, once! For charity!), or listening to a panel at the National Press Club. For these reasons, she has been called "a weird-stuff-o-meter" and takes it as a compliment. Follow her @AnnaMedaris.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.