Thursday, July 26, 2012

Navigating the salad bar at Whole Foods!

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I would weigh in and share my tips on how I maneuver the salad bar at whole foods. I am not always so fortunate with my purchase and sometimes I cringe when I accidentally spend $8 on a lunch salad (my bad?). But hey, nobody is perfect and hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes!

First and foremost; choose your salad container wisely. If you're not going to get a runny salad with lots of dressings and what not, opt for the folded paper containers usually located at the hot bar for housing your salad. The paper containers are much lighter than the cardboard like containers, which means less $$.

Second, if you like toppings then skimp on the lettuce. The lettuce is washed and although it feels light it actually holds a lot of water. I usually just barely cover the bottom of the container with lettuce, esp. if I'm eyeing up some heavy veggies.

I get carried away with individual veggies and usually add too many so I look for mixed prepared "salads" as toppings for my lettuce. For instance, yesterday I chose 2 tablespoons of chickpeas (a little goes a long way with these as they are very filling!), one scoop of a corn and red onion salad, followed by one scoop of a mediterranean salad (think couscous, kale and cherry tomatoes). The best thing about these toppings is they are pre-mixed with oils that can act as a dressing for the salad. Which leads me to my next tip...

Skip the dressing! Again, most dressings are heavy and can really add some weight to your salad. If you really need a dressing, try not to go over 1-2 tablespoons and opt for a vinagrette or water based dressing over a creamy dressing. Not only is it lighter in weight but it's also healthier!

Lastly, if you are adding a protein source like chicken, tofu or beef; stick to the 4oz rule. Four ounces is usually one serving size and all you need for your salad. Think 4 strips of grilled chicken/beef or one scoop of tofu and that should be plenty for your salad.

I wish I had taken a picture of my $5.75 salad from yesterday! It was super filling. I must admit, I was pretty proud of myself. *pats self on back*

Do you have any tips for saving money on salads at the salad bar? I'm always looking for advice in this area!

I was also lucky enough to get my hands on a very large bag of cherries from Whole Foods during a sale! I took the chance to learn how to pitt cherries (not so easy and very messy) and also made some yummy treats! Thanks Whole Foods!

Just a few pics below!

Cherry tart I made with Whole Foods cherries and Whole Foods organic filo dough (unnecessary? totally, but oh so worth it).

Cherry muffins made with the gigantic bunch of Whole Foods cherries I had!

Be on the lookout for a marathon training update soon!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My current obsession with Whole Foods

I know, I know, It's been over a month. I can at least say I warned you, right? Right.

Funny story, I used to never go to Whole Foods. I was extremely intimidated by the organic eating and whole foods craze. I mean, what did I know about these things? I generally try to eat healthy. My idea of healthy involves a balanced representation of food groups on my plate. If anything is unbalanced then that means there are more veggies than anything else! Also, while I used to be an avid vegetarian, I now have added chicken to get some extra lean protein. That combined with my little (I mean, huge?) sugar addiction and my newly self diagnosed gluten sensitivity and that's about all I know about my diet. So, growing up super thrifty means I try to incorporate my diet into a sustainable way of life. Usually this means avoiding pricey supermarkets like Whole Foods. This avoidance tactic has worked out well for me where I live in Charleston because the one and only Whole Foods is in no way convenient or accessible to me. However, back in the intimidation day, I used to work right across the street from the Whole Foods. I would venture in occassionally for a healthy lunch wrap and gawk at the tasty treats in the bakery section.

Well folks, things have changed a bit this summer. For 2/3 of my summer internship, I have been frequenting the Whole Foods in Old Town, Alexandria. I have walked up and down every single aisle and read a lot of labels. I'm not going to lie, things are still pricey but I am committed to "checking in" at least 10 times so that I can win a $5 gift card from foursquare (such a sucker for these things!). By the time I get that 10th check in (which I've all ready been there more than 10 times, I've just forgotten to "check in" - doh), I will have spent well over $100. I have the convenience to afford these lunch perusings with a 1 hour lunch break and a healthy summer stipend, but there are some things I will miss the most when I return to Charleston and end my sabbatical with Whole Foods.

1. The vast array of gluten free products. They have got to have the biggest selection of any place I've seen. My favorite snack that I have snatched for a whopping deal of $1.79 this week is a bag of Popcorners in White Chedder!

PopCorners! So yummy!

2. Stocking up on Odwalla smoothies and juices. Whole Foods has the best assortment of Odwalla drinks to date. Believe it or not, I have found that Whole Foods actually sells their Odwalla juices 10 cents cheaper than the local Harris Teeter. Score!

3. Being able to find all my favorite specialty products in one place. Justin's Almond Nut Butter? check. Vega nutrition products? check. Any and every kind of granola energy bar? check. Chicken hot dogs? check. Annie's Homegrown products? check. The list goes on.

The only place I have found individual packets of Vega smoothies!

A great snack option

4. Last but not least - the Whole Foods salad bar and hot foods bar. This section of the store is by far the biggest and most popular area. The thing I have enjoyed the most about the Old Town location is that even though it's busy, navigating through this area isn't nearly as intimidating as it used to be in Charleston! At $7.99/lb, you have to be savy when choosing your ingredients. I have managed to master the salad bar and most of my lunch salads average around $6, today's salad was $5.75!

I'll be sure to let you in on my tricks of the trade on my next post!

What are some of your Whole Foods favorites? I'd love to have some new things to try before I leave my internship!