Saturday, May 25, 2013

"What Would Jonathan Buy?" :
Mindful Shopping for Mindful Eating

I'm actually approached with this question quite a bit.  It makes me a laugh, because just like gravity or the air I breathe, I take my everyday for granted.  But it's a good reminder that it wasn't too long ago that my "everyday" was far from everyday and far from healthy or compassionate to my body.

When I first began transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle in 2007, I had to rediscover grocery shopping in many ways.  Breaking out of well-worn, comfortable habits, venturing into uncharted territory, and relying largely on recommendations and trial and error to help me figure it all out.  Naturally, I was overwhelmed at first, but as my body began to feel different based upon these new choices - stronger, less "broken," and more present - I became more confident with my grocery-shopping.  And soon I grew to love grocery shopping and frequenting the local farmers' markets, inviting opportunity and discovery at every turn to forge a new path to health for my body, mind, and spirit.

So today I'd like to share some of my favorites:  Staples in my refrigerator, must-have pantry stockers, and go-to snacks when I'm on the go (which is pretty much always).  I was torn between a post that not only explained what I ate but why I ate it as well, and a short n' sweet shopping list.  So, naturally, I'll be sharing both (if the list is more up your alley, feel free to scroll down towards the end of this post).

Just a little glimpse of what this canary eats to help him fly.

Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit:  I eat a lot of produce.  A lot.  And regular visits to the farmers' markets and local grocers over the years have helped me to really tune into what's in season and when where I live.   For example, right now I'm eating healthy amounts of rainbow chard, grapefruit, pears, peaches, dandelion greens,  leafy herbs, daikon radish, pea shoots, and root vegetables, like parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.  I also like to have a consistent supply of baby greens on hand at all times because salads are one of my major food groups.  My aim is for all of it to be organic, seasonal, and whenever possible, local.  Since transitioning to this plant-based diet a couple years ago, my skin, hair, and concentration have significantly improved, I am much less likely to succumb to illness, seasonal allergies, or mood swings, and my energy and creativity is more consistent.  

Tip: You can generally tell when something is in season when there's a sudden increase in its amount at the market coupled with a corresponding dip in price.  And when in doubt, just ask (whether it be the farmer, the produce manager, or your smartphone).

Rainbow of seasonal deliciousness at the Farmers' Market in Austin.
The same in a palengke in the Philippines.

Nut/Seed Butters:  I really enjoy nut and seed butters, whether to make a dressing, spread onto a rice cake, blend into hummus, or eat straight from the jar.  Great all the way from breakfast to dessert, packed with nutrition, energy potential, and satisfyingly delicious.  My favorites are peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, and tahini from the brand, Once Again, and Nutiva Coconut Manna.  I will usually have two to three open jars at the same time, so that I can easily rotate between them.  And in terms of ingredients, I believe that less is more, so I always aim for organic, fair trade, and minimally processed.

Nuts, Seeds, and 'Sprinkles':  I garnish just about everything I eat.  Call it a compulsion.  But it definitely serves a purpose, contributing not only visual interest, but flavor, texture, added fiber, protein,  and healthy fats.  Good things.  So I keep my refrigerator continually stocked with raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, peanuts, pecans, hemp hearts, chia seeds, black and white sesame seeds, bee pollen, crushed seaweed, and dried coconut.  I also like to have dried fruits, like goji berries, mulberries, currants, raisins, figs, and apricots, in good supply.  Again, organic and minimally processed. [cue broken record]

Beans and Grains:  I have a shelf in my pantry dedicated solely to dried goods I buy in bulk.  The assortment includes black Turtle beans, Black Eye Peas, mung beans, adzuki beans, and various lentils (e.g., black, red, French green).  Along with them, I keep "grains," like quinoa and buckwheat groats, and in the refrigerator, I keep millet, amaranth, and teff.  I put grains in quotations because rather than grains, they are actually either seeds or grass-fruit.  I do have some rice in the refrigerator, but it is on rare occasion that I will make it.  My body just doesn't process true grains as well as it used to.  All these together, whether I make them into soup, breakfast cereal, a marinated salad, or simply on their own, provide a balanced source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates to help me keep up with my demanding schedule.

Oils, Vinegars, and Condiments:  Rather than adding salt, pepper, or ketchup to boost my enjoyment of food, I prefer to do it with flavorful fat, palate-enhancing acidity, and tastebud-entertaining spiciness.  Fats actually serve as a "vehicle" for flavors, priming the tastebuds to sense them, and can be helpful in satisfying hunger, promoting absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins, healthy hormone production, and a vital immune and nervous system.  Like the nut butters, I have more than one open at the same time to rotate through them as needed for my sautéing, roasting, dressing/marinade-making, and garnishing whims.  Favorites are raw coconut oil, hemp oil, sunflower oil, light and fruity extra virgin olive oil, and toasted sesame oil.  Vinegars also serve a similar function in taste for me, the acid of them helping me to tease flavors apart and appreciate the flavors within the combination of ingredients.  I love Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar and Coconut Secret raw coconut vinegar, whether I'm adding a splash to fruit juice, pickling vegetables, or drizzling them over salads.  And condiments that I must have include sulfite-free sriracha, cinnamon, cumin, five-spice, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger juice, maple syrup, and nutritional yeast.

Get in mah belly.

Snacks:  Hello, my name is Jonathan, and I am a snacker.  It's my guilty pleasure, particularly crispy, crunchy, salty things.  I know I've mentioned it before, so why I still feel sheepish about it is beyond me.  But alas, whether or not these are truly "must-haves," they are undeniably a part of my diet.  And unlike the generality of the previous categories, I can get specific here.  Because let's be honest: Not all snacks are created equal.  Here are a selection of ones that I currently find hard to resist:  Sea Snax Roasted Seaweed Snacks, Go Raw Organic Sprouted Cookies, Crackers, and Energy Bars, Beanitos Chips, Inka Crops Plantain Chips, Kelp Krunch Bars, Wild Mountain Raw Crackers, Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas, and LesserEvil Baked Chia Crisps.

Hmmm - doesn't sound that bad now that I've written them all down.  [mischevious grin]

Beverages:  I mostly drink tea and water, but I do like to keep things interesting with fruit juices and non-dairy milks.  So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk and Lakewood Organic Fresh Pressed Juices, especially Tart Cherry, Pineapple, and their Fruit & Garden blends, pretty much take the cake in this category when I'm at home.  On the go, I look for Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks, Big Island Hawaiian Gingerade, Kevita Kefir Drinks, and Sambazon Acai Juices and Smoothies.

Miscellaneous Things That Make Me Happy:  Here are the other must-have items in my refrigerator and pantry that defied clean cut categorization:  Soba King Noodles and Ramen, dried woodear mushrooms, wakame, nori, and hijiki dried seaweed, miso paste, Inner-Eco Coconut Water Probiotic Kefir, Amazing Grass Raw Reserve Green Superfood Powder, whole psyllium husks, organic full-fat coconut milk, and organic canned beans.

Phew- now that you know what I eat and why, here's that condensed shopping list version:

Dark, leafy greens & baby greens
Seasonal vegetables and fruit
Peanut butter/Tahini/Sunflower seed butter
Hemp hearts/Chia seeds/Sesame seeds
Raw pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds
Dried goji berries, raisins, apricots, & coconut
Toasted sesame oil/Hemp oil/Maple syrup
Coconut water kefir/Raw apple cider vinegar
Coconut milk beverage/Fresh pressed fruit juice
Sriracha sauce/Miso paste
Bee pollen/Green superfood powder

Dried beans & pulses
Canned beans & coconut milk
Coconut oil/Olive oil
Raw coconut vinegar
Nutritional yeast
Dried seaweed & mushrooms
Whole psyllium husks
Buckwheat & mung bean noodles

Snacks & Drinks on the go:
Sea Snax Roasted Seaweed Snacks,
Go Raw Organic Sprouted Cookies, Crackers, and Energy Bars 
Beanitos Chips, Inka Crops Plantain Chips, LesserEvil Baked Chia Crisps
Wild Mountain Raw Crackers, 
Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas,
Kelp Krunch Bars
Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar Drinks, Kevita Kefir Drinks 
Sambazon Acai Juices and Smoothies,
Big Island Hawaiian Gingerade

And that's that.  It's amazing how much I take what I eat on a daily basis for granted.   In my mind, it's pretty straightforward - of course I eat these things.  But once I actually sat down to write it down and share it with others, my diet suddenly became much more complex and detailed.  And honestly, kind of random.  But it's how I've come to learn to live in harmony with my body - understanding what it needs in order to be its best in the moment.

I hope this was helpful in some way, shape, or form.  For more fun tips on navigating grocery shopping with food allergies/dietary constraints, the following oldie but goodie posts may also help to shed some light for you.

Thank You for reading.  May you also find, and then maintain, the path to health for your mind, body, and spirit.

Disclaimer:  For the brand names listed, these are simply brands that I have experienced and enjoy.  I have never been approached regarding promoting these particular brands - all opinions expressed here are my own.  Just sharing what makes me happy.  I hope they might make you happy as well.

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