Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grocery shopping experiment

Years ago I followed a nutritionist through a Grade A market in Stamford, as she led a class on how to grocery shop. The one thing that has stuck in my mind was her advice: Shop the perimeter of the market and avoid the aisles.

Obviously, this advice does not work all the time, because there are lots of fattening things around the perimeter. But the items you really should avoid -- the candy, cookies, soda, chips -- are down the aisles. Of course, the aisles also have healthy foods, such as olive oil and beans, but overall, the aisles are stocked with science experiments that taste good.

Around the perimeter you find produce, fish, meat and poultry, dairy products, and the in-store baker section, the food categories that should be filling your basket. And if you shop the perimeter, and then compare your shopping cart with the person on the check-out line next to you, your cart will look clean! It will not be filled with foods loaded with ingredients you can't pronounce. The food is, well, just food.

Give it a try, just once, and see how you feel at the end of the week. More alive is my guess.

Here's a recipe to get you started shopping along the perimeter. Yes, there will be some cans in your basket, but they are good-for-you food. If you must, you can throw in a pound of ground chicken or beef into this chili.


Olive oil spray
1 large white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 large green pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1-lb. can fire roasted tomatoes,
undrained and diced
Half of 1 canned
chipotle chile in adobo sauce, diced (you can use the whole chile if you really like food spicy, or add more adobo sauce)
1 cup vegetable stock
Tblsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Garnish: chopped scallions, low-fat shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream
  • Spray large saute pan or Dutch oven with olive oil. Add onion to pan and saute over low heat about 10 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent.
  • Place frozen corn in colander, rinse with hot water until no longer frozen, and set aside to drain.
  • Add bell pepper to saute pan and saute another 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and saute 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in black beans, tomatoes, chipotle, vegetable stock, chile powder, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and sinner 30 minutes.
  • About 5 minutes before chile is done, add corn and cook 5 minutes more.
  • Just before serving, taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed. Add lime juice and mix well.

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