Today we’re getting back to basics on healthy eating and breaking down how to simplify healthy grocery shopping with, Jessica Jones, from Food Heaven Made Easy.
Transforming How You Eat & Simplifying Grocery Shopping with Jessica Jones
Jessica is a nationally recognized dietician and diabetes educator with a passion for helping people transform the way they eat and make peace with food. She is the coauthor of The 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot and a Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World and co-hosts to food heaven podcast.
We’re going back to basics on healthy eating and the secret to simplifying healthy grocery shopping with today’s guest, Jessica Jones, from Food Heaven Made Easy.
Jessica is a nationally recognized dietician and diabetes educator with a passion for helping people transform the way they eat and make peace with food.
She is the coauthor of The 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot and a Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World.
She is the cofounder of the healthy living website, Food Heaven Made Easy, where she and provides evidence-based nutrition tips and tricks for living a nutritious life.
She also cohosts the Food Heaven podcast and she has a grounded approach that you’ll love.
Today we’re getting back to basics on healthy eating and breaking down how to simplify healthy grocery shopping
Jessica is her own individual person, but often times there’s a second person who joins her for these interviews.
She co-runs Food Heaven Made Easy with her BFF Wendy Lopez.
Both Jess and Wendy are registered dietitians who try to help people eat healthier in a way that is sustainable, practical, evidence based, exciting, culturally relevant, and all the things.
Together, they run the podcast, do a bunch of recipe development, and work with a bunch of brands that they believe in.
Really, they just want to help people live their best life.
On how Jess and Wendy ended up in business together:
Jess tries to find business owners in the wellness space made up of two people and it’s rare to see.
But it’s so cool to have that other person to lean on.
It’s helpful to have someone else there to pick up the slack, have your back as a friend and in a business sense.
When they first started in 2011, they were just messing around with a creative outlet, it didn’t become an official business until around 2015.
At that time, both Jess and Wendy were both dietetic students looking for that creative outlet where they could talk about nutrition in a way they felt was fun and exciting, trying to show people how to eat healthier versus just giving people boring statements about what to do.
And they do an amazing job with that.
It’s one thing to say “eat more veggies”, but if it were that simple everyone would do it.
It’s really important to take that next step and say how, which Jess and Wendy do such a nice job of.
On what brought Jess to the field of dietetics:
Jess was originally a journalist, which has worked out really well.
Journalism was her first passion and she still loves writing and having a voice that is reflected on paper (or online).
So she was a journalist working at a magazine, and it was around 2007 when blogs were just starting.
She remembers working her job full-time being really hard for her because she felt like she was so passionate about writing, but she wasn’t always able to write in her voice or write the stories she wanted to.
She would get anxiety walking into the building itself because you can’t get anything wrong, it has to be exactly a certain way; it didn’t seem like something she could do forever.
The other thing was that working as a journalist was pretty low pay.
It just wasn’t a livable wage.
She wanted to find a job that paid a little more and where she felt like she was directly helping people, kind of on a one on one basis.
And even though in the past she didn’t feel like science was necessarily her thing, she realized later that it really was.
As a woman of color, she didn’t have any confidence in that and nutrition is so science-based so once she started to learn more about what it was all about, it was really exciting for her.
On one hand it’s the nerdy side, and on the other hand there’s space to be creative, and also help people in a more sustainable career path.
On the tension within the dietitian community:
As a field, it’s not like everyone agrees on the same thing.
And if you are a Registered Dietitian, or someone interested in going into the field, there are a number of ways you could be employed– you could work for hospitals, for the county, with individual clients.
There are a lot of opportunities, and yet, there’s a lot of tension among the RD community about what they’re teaching or what they recommend to their clients.
The way Jess thinks about it is like recipes.
Let’s say that there are a million different people out there who are making recipes, whether it be chefs, recipe developers, or bloggers, but Jess has her own unique taste buds and style, and she knows what she likes.
So when she’s looking for somebody who is making recipes, she finds people who she’s established that they’re on the same page in terms of what their flavor profile is.
Everything is so subjective and then she can trust that if that person comes out with something she’ll probably like it.
It’s the same thing for healthcare and dietitians.
Yes, there are different dietitians who have different messages.
So, find someone where you feel like your core values match their delivery and approach to health, wellness, and nutrition.
This is a place that people find themselves in a lot in wellness, searching for the right answer, the right diet, the right exercise plan.
And as we’re searching a seeking, there’s conflicting information.
And it can start to feel like nothing you’re doing is right, but if you keep searching, you’ll eventually find the right answer, the right person.
Getting stuck in this spiral of anxiety and seeking can have the opposite effect in wellness.
There definitely are people who are talking about food, nutrition, and wellness in more of a science base, but even within that, there’s always going to be conflict, which is okay.
Jess doesn’t think that there is one right thing, she thinks everything is so individualized.
“I don’t think there’s one right diet, I think there’s a right diet for you”.
It takes some time to figure out what it is that does work best for you.
But in general, a good dietitian is going to be focused on the science as well as the practicality of all of those different things.
It’s important to make recommendations that take into account that people are busy or that there’s more to food than nutrition, there’s a cultural aspect.
For example, Jess is currently working with a patient who talked about his relationship with boba tea and how in his community, that is something that friends socialize over.
But then it might become something that starts happening every day of the week and, of course, boba tea can be a little high in sugar.
So a good dietitian isn’t going to tell him that he shouldn’t drink boba tea, they will ask him what’s important to him and how do we work around maintaining a culture and keeping memories as well as prioritizing health and make them work together.
Jess really uses the USDA MyPlate guide as a base for most people, and that basically says to make 1/2 of your plates non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 proteins, 1/4 whole grains, and she always mentions to add healthy fats.
It’s a good baseline, but it’s not everything.
She always tells people that we want to balance out nourishing foods with fun foods, because at the end of the day, we aren’t just eating for nutrition.
Keri Glassman, from Nutritious Life, was recently a guest on Jess’s podcast.
During their conversation, Keri said something wonderful:
“You don’t have to jump on every bandwagon to be healthy”. -Keri Glassman
Ultimately, there’s an idea of what a healthy plate looks like, but it can be customized to someone’s preferences.
The beauty of having all these options out there is that you can find people who speak your language, address your values, and lift you up.
Tip: try Jess’s social media scrub.
Look at your social media accounts, and unfollow everyone that’s ever made you feel bad about yourself.
Follow people who are inclusive in wellness, offering different perspectives.
Check out Jess’s list of who to follow!
It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start.
On grocery shopping:
Jess and Wendy have an amazing resource, a Healthy Eating Starter Kit, which you can grab for free by signing up for their email list at www.foodheavenmadeeasy.com.
It goes through how to set goals and find your motivation.
It’s evidence-based, so it’s not just stuff they’re making up, it’s research-backed.
It’s also packaged with a grocery list and a supermarket survival guide, which they give out for free to anyone who signs up for their list.
More on the grocery list:
If we’re cooking at all, we’re spending time in the grocery store.
And a major habit of most people is just to wander around, grab stuff, put it in their cart, and then come home and put it in the pantry and fridge, and then they wonder why it’s so hard to cook.
But there’s a way to simplify this and make grocery shopping easier.
Jess’s recommendations to simplify:
1 | Be consistent with grocery shopping + figure out the frequency that works for you.
Sometimes Jess goes grocery shopping once a week, but recently she’s been doing once a month.
With once a month, she’ll do a Costco run, where she gets everything for the month (even perishables that can last a month in the fridge).
And then on a weekly basis, Jess has a farm-share box that gets delivered to her house, which she gets to customize for $33 a week with a ton of fruits and vegetables that are delivered every Thursday evening.
She also is a fan of going out once a week to Trader Joe’s or a local grocery store, and just figuring out how much you need to buy to last you for one week.
So number one, is figuring out the frequency that you have in your schedule to go and building from there.
And then when you know a good day and time, put that in your calendar.
The thing that makes it overwhelming is not having a system at all, and it feels more challenging than it has to be.
2 | Bring a list + map out the store.
It’s really hard to stay on a budget without a list.
Jess uses a spreadsheet that she puts loose meal plans, staples that she knows she needs into and she tries to categorize it by where those foods will be in the supermarket.
It helps you not forget anything.
Tip for a budget: keep your calculator out on your phone and add the price every time something goes in your cart– once you hit your budget, something has to go or it’s a good place to stop.
If you’re not a spreadsheet person, use a pen and paper.
Organizing your list by type of food and place in the store streamlines your life.
Robyn likes to do this with her daughter, too, teaching her about budgeting and having those conversations about “do I really need this or can I swap it for this?”.
And after doing this for a few months, you really won’t need a calculator anymore, you kind of just know how it goes.
If this sounds totally overwhelming, just think about what the least you could do now is, and even if it’s just going to the grocery store or signing up for the CSA box that’s going to make your life easier, just take that one step.
(for more on CSA’s and eating fresh, check out this conversation with Andrea Bemis)
If a spreadsheet is going to stop you from doing anything at all, just write the list out, just do something to get your momentum going.
The nice thing about a spreadsheet, though, is that next month, you’re probably not going to change your list a whole lot.
It is a little more work up front, but then it gets so much easier.
3 | Color your cart + check out the nutrition facts.
We don’t want to get stuck in a rut of always having the same things, especially with fruits and vegetables.
We can think of getting a variety of fruits and vegetables in terms of colors, because all of the colors represent different vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Think about making things practical, though.
There’s the recommendation and then there’s real life.
For real life, a goal could be adding in three different colors of fruits and vegetables in a week.
If you eat seasonally, it’s really easy to do this because it’s always changing.
(Eating seasonally also means better tasting, more nutritious, and cheaper!)
An easy way to do that is to look up what’s in season in your area, and that will help you naturally color your cart.
Once you have a variety in that way, look at the nutrition facts label.
A lot of times, we might see a change in packaging that looks more natural and it’s a tan color or white and simple or rustic, but reading the label can reveal that it’s the same as it was before.
“Natural, fresh, and healthy. Those aren’t regulated terms, they don’t mean anything in the world of nutrition. Reading the nutrition facts label can be really helpful”.
An easy way to do this is to think about what’s going on for you, health-wise.
For example, if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan and you know that you’re having a hard time getting enough protein, the label can be really helpful for seeking out higher proteins by comparing products.
Some soy milks might have 11 grams of protein while others might have 8 grams.
Or with other plant-based milks, some might be sweetened, some might not be.
It’s about what’s going on for you– Are you trying to watch your added sugar? Does it taste any different for you either way?
Also, as many of us know, fiber is really healthy and important, it helps to keep us regular, lower cholesterol, it helps shrink our GI tract, so having foods with fiber are great.
And a lot of the healthiest foods don’t have labels, but if you’re looking at two cereals, for example, you might choose the one that’s lower in sugar and higher in fiber and protein.
And then with vitamins, we want to make sure that we’re getting in vitamin D, which a lot of people have trouble with.
Same thing with calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E– check out the labels to see what you’re getting from your food.
It’s not to drive yourself crazy, but just to get in the habit of checking to see what’s going on and maybe compare two things to see what you might want more of versus what you might want in moderation.
Reading labels can take a little time at the beginning, but you’re actually learning from it and eventually you just know what’s in the food you’re buying.
Grocery shopping is something that we do all the time, but with a little thought, a little intentionality, you can level-up the whole thing and make it easier, simpler, and have a better quality basket when you leave the store.
On what’s lighting up Jess right now:
Jessica got married last summer and she and her husband are getting ready for their official honeymoon, a three and a half week trip to Europe that she’s really excited about.
And then professionally, she’s excited about honing in on just a couple of different things.
For now, they’re really focusing on their podcast, partnerships, and just having one program.
They just came out with a “Best-Of” Program, which has all of their different programs packaged together.
She’s excited and grateful for being able to be in the nutrition space and feel like she can be creative with some of the work she does.
She also loves conversations like this, hopefully giving people ideas for how to make healthy and wellness easier for them.
On what it really means to be healthy:
Rebecca Schritchfield wrote a book called Body Kindness that Jess loves and always recommends.
Rebecca recommends that people create a body kindness blueprint.
“Taking the time to really truly think about what does health mean for you… I think if everyone took the time to decide what that really looked like for them, not what they think they should do, but truly when do you feel your happiest, when do you feel your mot energetic, when do you feel like you’re living your best life, and write that down and just try to remind yourself why you’re doing it and that it really does make you feel better and make a difference”.
Jessica is a nationally recognized Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a passion for helping people transform the way they eat and make peace with food. She is the co-author the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot and A Diabetes Guide to Enjoying the Foods of the World. As the co-founder of the healthy living website, Food Heaven Made Easy, Jessica provides evidenced-based nutrition tips and tricks for living a nutritious life. When she is not counseling patients on nutrition therapy for wellness, disordered eating, GI issues and chronic disease management, Jessica co-hosts the Food Heaven Podcast, which was named New & Noteworthy by iTunes. Through Food Heaven Made Easy, Jessica regularly partners with national brands like Quaker Oats, Sunsweet, The Almond Board of California, Mighties Kiwi and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to create delicious recipes and curated multimedia content. In additional to being a go-to nutrition expert for many national media outlets, Jessica has penned countless articles about food, health and nutrition for publications like SELF.com, Buzzfeed, and Today’s Dietitian.
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