“Um, where do you keep the nutritional yeast?” When I said this to the cashier at my local Whole Foods, what I really meant was, “What on Earth is nutritional yeast, and what am I supposed to do with it?” I had come across a number of recipes that called for this ingredient on my quest to become a healthier cook, but it took me a while to get up enough courage to walk into a Whole Foods Market and try to find it.
I’ll be honest, places like Whole Foods, farmers markets and produce co-ops intimidate me. Like most Americans I’d spent the majority of my life shopping for the same prepackaged meals week after week, only straying from the norm when I went out to dinner with my food savvy friends. After finally getting fed up with feeling tired, cloudy and sluggish, I decided it was time to take control of my diet, which led me on my quest for nutritional yeast. I knew changing my diet would require I completely change how and where I grocery shopped, which I initially found intimidating. With patience, persistence, practice and a little ingenuity, I became a regular Whole Foods Lewis and Clark.
Here is how to make the transition from the convenience store to the health food store a little less intimidating and little more fun.
Do your research: Don’t pretend like you didn’t Google “how to pronounce quinoa” the first time you read about it, or you weren’t extra careful not to spill water on your chia seeds for fear they might start to sprout. When it doubt, look it up. There is no shame in getting on the internet and pulling up pictures of unfamiliar products. If nothing else, you’ll have a better idea what you’re looking for from how the product is packaged to what section it can be found in to who makes it. You might even stumble on some pretty great deals online, saving you money and a trip to the store.
Implement the buddy system: Not sure what farmers market etiquette looks like? Bring a friend. Bringing a friend along is great for a couple of reasons. First, it takes the pressure off. Trying something new can be stressful, but bringing along a friend turns it into a fun, healthy, social adventure! Anyone for, “Remember that time we went to the farmers market and bought six star fruit because we liked the way they looked,” as opposed to, “Remember that time we took six tequila shots and had to walk three miles home in December?” Also, you can split the goods. Want to give lentils a try, but they only come in a large bag? Time to divide and conquer; sharing with a friend can provide a more cost effective way to try out new foods. It can also be a lot of fun to hear how others are getting creative with the same ingredients.
Join a community: I recently discovered that a community center close to my apartment teaches classes on plant-based grocery shopping, cooking and eating in addition to meditation and yoga. With more and more people starting to take charge of their health and wellness, it’s no surprise that educational opportunities such as these are starting to pop up all over the place. If you’re serious about making changes, and you’re not sure where to start, this might be the way to go. You’ll be placed in an environment with other like-minded individuals where you’ll be able to ask all the questions you want, and get immediate answers.
Ask for help: Remember that story about nutritional yeast? Despite looking it up online and asking a couple of my vegan friends for direction, when I walked in the door of Whole Foods, I couldn’t find it to save my life. I had to break down and finally just ask someone for help. Turns out it had recently been moved to a different spot in the store, and despite my best efforts, I had to ask someone other than myself for direction.
Wanting to make healthy changes to your diet is a great step in the right direction! Be aware that it’ll take patience, practice and persistence to get where you want to be, but the rewards are tenfold. I encourage you to be open to embracing the experience -- the good, the bad, the hilarious, and everything in between.