Better eating starts with better shopping, as evidenced by all those times we give in to the potato chip aisle and wind up with four bags of late-night temptation in the pantry. But beyond just avoiding junk food, knowing what's good for you can be confusing. Do I need those non-GMO cookies? Does it really mean anything that my cereal is labeled organic?
To help bring some clarity to the challenges, Nature's Food Patch Market and Cafe has launched a new program. This weekend, the grocery store in Clearwater is introducing the idea of personalized shopping and wellness consultations with a nutritionist. For a fee, shoppers can consult an expert who will walk them through making smarter food choices.
Amy Goldweber, the St. Petersburg-based registered dietitian and nutritionist on board for the program, said taking this holistic approach to food is an important part of becoming and staying healthy.
"For me, the greatest reward is to help people become completely self-reliant with their nutrition, to awaken to their own ultimate potential," Goldweber said. "I have a very strong passion for optimal health and happiness, and that is how you achieve it."
She also comes from the school of, If you don't like it, why are you eating it?, encouraging people to eat what they want but do it smartly. As someone who struggled with obesity as a child, she has learned to not lean on limitations.
"Plants make up the majority of my meals. Fresh and frozen veggies and fruits. But I'm not a vegetarian. It's whatever my body agrees with," she said. "I don't go crazy with perfecting a meal plan. I make sure I get a variety of flavors, colors, nutrients, that entice all of our five senses."
This particular program came about because the store has had requests from customers who want help with food allergies or restricted diets after hospital stays, said store director Rebekah Santiago.
"Over the years, I have come across many customers who had questions about the foods we carry. Some had just left the doctor's office and were told to stop eating gluten, to lose weight, or not to eat anything with chemicals. Others had just decided to make a change and start eating differently," she said.
Even without specific restrictions, there is a lot of confusion about what to eat and what not to eat, Goldweber said. Plus, it's different for everyone.
"There's not one universal way of eating. That's why this program provides a personalized service, for people to address their personal health and wellness goals."
Santiago said customers will have the opportunity to explore and learn about the store with Goldweber one-on-one, and she will help them find products and foods that "suit their needs and nutritional goals."
Customized sessions won't follow set parameters but will instead focus on each customer's priorities, Goldweber said. Driving it all will be self-awareness tools the nutritionist specializes in: mindfulness, yoga and meditation. It's all part of that holistic approach to health.
"I think this sort of thing is going to explode," she said. "Everybody is realizing how important nutrition is. Sports teams have their own dietitians. People are realizing, everyone is going to need this kind of guidance."
If you're interested in the program, the store is hosting a "Meet the Nutritionist" event this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., shoppers can meet with Goldweber and learn more about the process.
One of the forces driving this Nature's Food Patch program is the recent rise in food allergies and intolerances, and helping those who have them figure out how to stay healthy and nourished. This week's cover story touches on a similar topic. Our food critic Laura Reiley spends some time with a local woman who is allergic to an overwhelming amount of food. Check out the story on Page 6E to learn how she navigates those allergies — and how she goes about eating at restaurants.
Contact Michelle Stark at email@example.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.