A Nutritionist's Shopping List

Foods to buy, foods to avoid, and how to get the most nutrients on every trip to the grocery store.

By Hallie Ephron
of salt in a snack-sized portion.The Dairy SectionIn the dairy section, I toss a tub of whipped butter and a package of cheddar cheese into the cart and start moving on."Don't you need yogurt or milk?" she asks.I tell her I'm not a big yogurt fan, and I rarely drink milk."Are you taking calcium supplements?"I look down. I hate those horse pills, and the chews taste like chalk.She stops dead: "Where do you get your calcium, Hallie?""Ice cream and cheese?"She cracks up. Fat and salt.Her calcium counsel: The recommended level for women over 50 is 1,200 mg. a day. But, food labels don't list calcium in milligrams. Instead you'll see % Daily Value (% DV), based on a daily requirement of 1,000 mg. The easy way to convert to milligrams is to just replace the % from DV with a "0." So when the milk carton says a one-cup serving has 30%DV, that's 300 mg.It hits me. That 1,200 mg. of calcium is a colossal amount. We're talking a couple of glasses of milk, plus a cup of yogurt, plus a glass of calcium-enriched OJ, an ounce of cheese or three and a half cans of sardines. If I eat all that, I'll already have packed away 500 calories, and I've barely eaten anything I like. Suddenly, those calcium pills look a lot more appealing.Checkout: The Wrap-Up"So, are there any bad foods?" I ask."There are no bad foods. There are healthier foods," she says."Anything you don't buy, ever?" I ask.She mentions stick margarine, a food with apparently no redeeming features. "It's got trans-fats," she explains. These tend to raise "bad" cholesterol.And in spite of the current anti-carb craze, she buys bread. "Carbs are good for you," she says. "They supply the B vitamins and energy that fuel your body." She suggests I buy whole-grain instead of refined white flour bread. As I leave the market, the fog has started to lift. I may not have all the answers, but at least I know which questions to ignore.I'm not giving up fat or salt, but I'll be paying attention to how much I consume. And I'm going to force myself to take a daily calcium supplement, because there's no way anyone can eat that many sardines.Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2004.

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