Article by Ashley Collins, Naples Daily News
Originally published on naplesnews.com. Republished with permission.
Grocery shopping can be a stressful experience — the large selection of produce overwhelming, the cookie aisle too tempting to resist, and a bored toddler difficult to please.
Sometimes it's just easier for busy parents to grab any items off the shelves and call it a day before running to a Little League baseball game or piano recital.
As more and more grocery stores sprout in Southwest Florida, each offering more fresh, healthy products than ever before, the average consumer is often left feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what is best for their family. That's where Jennifer Khosla comes in.
"Instead of just eating whatever, it's better to fuel your body, and I think people are becoming more understanding of that now," said the Naples-based holistic nutrition specialist. It's just a matter of taking the time and making the effort, Khosla added.
In 2015, the 32-year-old founded Lean and Green Body, a health and wellness program, offering services such as yoga classes, nutrition sessions, personal training and grocery shopping.
The latter involves Khosla creating a diet plan and shopping list with her clients, and then accompanying them to a local store. There, she helps clients shop for the right foods and avoid the bad ones.
As the number of grocery stores multiplies in Collier and Lee counties, the first step for a shopper, Khosla said, is determining which store fits their needs — budget and diet wise.
Southwest Florida has no shortage of popular options like Publix, Walmart and Target, as well as niche grocers like Aldi, Lucky's Market, Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, Wynn's Market and Food & Thought.
And a growing list of stores opening soon, including the first Whole Foods in Fort Myers, and Oakes Farms Seed to Table grocery store in North Naples.
You've got a cart, now what?
We met up with Khosla on a recent weekday at one of Naples' many grocery stores, Whole Foods in Mercato, to find out how families can make the most of their trip and leave the store with plenty of healthy items for the week.
A shopping list is essential to stay on track and avoid overspending, Khosla said.
Our list was full of healthy, lean items like vegetables, fruits, quinoa and salmon. We started our journey at the produce section. Khosla recommends shoppers begin with produce and work their way around the perimeter of the store, where they'll find the seafood and dairy sections.
"When shopping for your family, consider everyone in your household and think about what meals you want to make for the week, and what you'll need to make your kids' school lunches," Khosla said.
A good tip to remember:Avoid shopping on an empty stomach.
"Often times you buy way more than you need. And when you're hungry, usually you don't pick the healthiest items, but the stuff you're craving at the time," she said.
Khosla practices the healthy life she preaches.
She lives in Naples with her husband who adopted her healthy lifestyle. She does meal prep most weeks and tries her best to limit sugar and carbs. Zucchini pasta anyone?
Khosla studied nutrition and athletic training at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where she went on to do her graduate work in dietetics. She started her career as a hospital dietitian, but quickly realized her passion for holistic nutrition, a career move that took her to California and New York before she settled down in her hometown of Naples.
"When I found out about holistic nutrition, I was like, 'This is amazing.' You can actually heal your body naturally without drugs or prescriptions," said Khosla, who's also a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer.
She's currently working on becoming a board certified holistic nutritionist and recently published her own wellness book: "Revitalize & Renew: 7 days to a healthier you."
Try to avoid or limit these items
The inner aisles are often the trickiest when it comes to finding the healthiest options, Khosla said.
It's no secret packaged products like cereal and microwavable mac n' cheese can sit on shelves for weeks to months before expiring.
"Usually that means they have a lot of chemicals and preservatives," Khosla said. Which can make it tougher for our bodies to process and digest, she added.
And many of these items contain high levels of sugar. Even something as healthy as yogurt can hold more than a dozen grams in a single individual container.
"And depending how much it has, it's going to offset all the benefits the yogurt does have," Khosla said.
Which is why, she added, shoppers should get accustomed to reading nutrition facts labels before making the purchase. But more on that later.
Say yes to these
Shoppers should stock their carts with plenty of veggies, fruits, wild seafood, dairy products, and packaged items like dried beans and quinoa, Khosla said.
"You want to buy food that will expire quickly like vegetables and fruits. Those are the types of foods you want to be consuming the most," she said.
While fresh items expire faster — and may lead to more shopping trips — it's worth it in the end, Khosla said. Setting time once a week to prepare meals for the week ahead can ensure these foods don't go to waste.
And parents can even add any leftover greens to their kids' desserts or breakfast smoothies.
"You can chop up some spinach and put it into brownie batter or add a handful of greens into the blender to make peanut butter chocolate smoothies," she said.
Like with any diet, moderation is key.
Khosla said she doesn't suggest people eat clean 100 percent of the time. That could lead to binge eating junk food.
She does however recommend they follow the 80/20 diet. That means 80 percent of the food they consume should be healthy items like veggies, fruits, whole grains and fish. And the 20 percent is for the foods they crave, like pizza or chocolate.
To shop organic or not?
While organic produce has less pesticides, it's often more expensive than regular products. However, Khosla does recommend shoppers opt for organic dairy products, or find alternatives like almond or cashew milk, and choose organic on specific fruits and vegetables considered part of the dirty dozen.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residue:
Sweet bell peppers (That includes hot peppers)
Last but not least: Read the nutrition facts label
"It's really important to understand what you are putting in your body," Khosla said.
Sometimes an item advertises itself as a nutritional snack, but one look at the nutrition facts label could say otherwise.
Khosla advises shoppers compare products based on the amount of calories per serving, sugar, fiber and protein listed on the label.
Fat-free doesn’t necessarily mean it's calorie-free, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some lower fat food items may have just as many calories as the full-fat version.
"It's not about becoming obsessed with the number, but really become aware and educated," Khosla said.
She recommends shoppers also read the ingredients section before purchasing any item.
"You want to limit packaged products to 10 ingredients or less. If you can't understand an ingredient or pronounce it, it's probably a chemical," Khosla said.
"Our bodies aren't going to be able to break down chemicals as easily and digest them as effectively as we do whole foods."