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grocery shopping

Surprise Youself With A New Food Every Week

We came home from vacation and my friend who had been dog sitting had left two persimmons on the counter. I looked at the beautiful orange fruit as a gift and a sign to prepare my next meal with a new food. I’m sure I’ve eaten this fruit before, but my memory could not bring up the flavors so I pulled up some info on the characteristics and then looked into my favorite recipes to find a place for it. persimmon

Get out of the rut of eating the same foods over and over again. When you are at the grocery store make it a habit to try a new fruit, vegetable or grain every week. Maybe try something you recall disliking as a kid and see what you make of it now. Not feeling very experimental, start with a different brand of apple, or type of potato. Get to know your spice rack to change the flavors in a dish you make frequently.

Having just come back from vacation I wanted to incorporate the persimmon into a dish I was already familiar with. Try this experiment next time you pick up a new food at the grocery store. Substitute it for something common in one of your favorite dishes. Keep it simple.

persimmon salad

I had been eating fish all week in Hawaii and still wanted to keep on that path so I took my recipe for pecan crusted chicken and substituted tilapia. I served this over a salad of baby spinach, pre-cooked red beets, avocado, and substituted persimmon for orange sections. To add some depth to the flavor and texture I added homemade purple cabbage sauerkraut (so easy to make and it can be kept in the refrigerator for 6 months) and homemade sprouts. Before trying this dish I had no idea what to do with persimmon and now I have a new seasonal fruit to look forward to eating in the fall.

Some tips if you want to try persimmon. The fruit is native to China and was later introduced to California. Check where your grocery store fruit came from and try for as local as possible as opposed to Asian imports. It’s harvested in the fall in California and typically available through December. One fruit is about 70 calories and is a good source of fiber. It has anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic properties. The orange color it a tip that it is high in carotenoids, helping to prevent age related macular disease. One fruit provides 80% of daily requirement for vitamin C. It’s a good post workout food as it is fairly high in minerals like potassium, manganese, copper and phosphorus. There are two common varieties, the hachiya (more astringent) and the fuyu (more sweet) shown in my recipe. The hachiya variety has a shape similar to a plum tomato and requires more ripening if you want to experience a sweet taste.

Now that I know I like the fruit and understand it's texture and taste I'm going to try it in a Caprese Salad. Give this a try and tell me what you think.


Here are answers for only a few questions I hear regarding shopping locally, reading labels, and shopping for organic foods. Why do people need to use local farmers’ markets?

When you buy local you are choosing food that is closer to the date of picking and therefore higher in nutrients than foods that came from a greater distance.  Also, many organic farmers don’t want to or can’t afford to pay the fees for their produce to be certified organic, so you have to ask them.  Talk with them to find out about their farming practices and whether or not they use pesticides.  Most farmers will also advertise where their farms are located.

What should I look for on food labels?

This is a loaded question but here are a few answers.

Whole grains: look for the word “whole” in the ingredients list before grains like wheat and look for at least three grams of fiber per serving.

Fats: The nutrient list should say “0 trans fat,” the fat that raises the risk of heart disease.  Check the ingredient list as well for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats, also forms of trans fat.  Take special care when purchasing “low fat” foods and look for artificial sweeteners.

Sugars: Aside from dairy products, aim for less than 10 grams per serving, the lower the better.  Take special care when shopping for “low fat” foods and check the label for artificial sweeteners.  Many manufacturers will add sugar or artificial sweeteners on reduced fat products.  These products should be avoided.  Go for the full fat versions instead, unless they contain trans fats.

Sodium: Avoid products with more than 480 milligrams per serving.

Which organic foods are most important to buy to avoid pesticides and additives like hormones?

Organic fruits and vegetables should top your list, particularly those where you eat the skin like berries, greens, and summer squash. Aim to buy organic dairy, meat, and chicken to avoid the added antibiotics and hormones.  Whenever possible buy locally; not only has a lot of energy been expended to get that organic apple from Ecuador to you, but the apple has also lost a lot more nutrients en route than a local organic one picked the same week you buy it.


When I speak to people about dietary habits I find for the most part there are about 20 foods that consistently make up 80 percent of a persons diet throughout the year.  It’s summer now, time to switch things up again.   Look for these foods on your next shopping adventure. Buffalo is grass-fed, which means you are getting a better balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Most often you will find it as ground meat or in patties but you may find steaks at quality butchers and farmers' markets.  The meat is much leaner than beef but has many of the same characteristics.

100% pomegranate juice with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids may slow aging and lower heart disease risk.  Adding small amounts to water is a refreshing way to enjoy the juice and may help you increase your water intake.

Bulgur Wheat is the spine of tabouli salad.  Follow package directions, and then toss with a little olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, and parsley.  It’s a great base for many fresh summer salads.  Add a variety of fresh chopped vegetables for a cooling side salad or snack.

Asian noodles like soba or buckwheat are high in fiber, and their rich stores of flavonoids may lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  I love them in the summer because they make for great cold salads.

Fennel bulb is an aromatic vegetable high in vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  Slice it very thin and add to salads.