Inside the Fridge Welcomes Vicki Shanta Retelny, RD, LDN (@vsrnutrition)- nationally-recognized food and nutrition expert, culinary instructor and media consultant. Vicki lives to eat well in Chicago with her husband, two active youngsters and their precocious pet pug. Her book The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods is an empowering exploration into the landscape of food, which encourages readers to evolve their eating for improved health, happiness and longevity. She writes a monthly column for metroparent magazine; her byline has appeared in dozens of publications including Environmental Nutrition, SELF, and CookingLight.com, among others.
ITF: Where do you shop for food?
VSR: Fortunately, I have a variety of grocers to choose from in my area. I love Trader Joe’s for most of my food, however, there’s a new grocery chain in Chicago called Mariano’s (owned by Roundy’s). Also, I love the farmer’s market here. We have a great one called, Green City Market, it’s indoors in fall/winter and outdoors in spring/summer.
ITF: Do you love food shopping or dread it?
VSR: I love to food shop! I get creative with what I buy and I love to explore the store and check out new foods and deals. It’s always an adventure.
ITF: What is the single most important thing on your mind when you are shopping for food?
VSR: Well, I am always thinking how to maximize nutritional value and make it taste good. Since I am cooking for kids – they are picky. I want them to have all the colorful, whole foods, but honestly that can be a struggle. I am constantly thinking of ways to add flavor without a lot of butter, cheese and salt!
ITF: How often do you shop?
VSR: I should go less often – and buy more at one time, however, I wind up going to the grocery store at least 3 times a week. I want fresh foods like produce, bread, milk and yogurt – so that requires more frequent trips.
ITF: How many do you shop for? Ages?
VSR: I shop for 4 people + 1 pet. It’s my husband and me, plus our two children, Grant – almost 7 years old and Sammie – 5 ½ years old. Stella, our pug, just turned 8 years old!
ITF: How do you plan your weekly meals? Create a spreadsheet of fly by the seat of your pants? Both.
VSR: Meal planning is always interesting in our house. Sometimes, I have a weekly menu and then I get busy and get off that bandwagon. So I would love to practice what I preach to my clients, but I don’t always stick to a close weekly meal plan. I think it makes me a more empathetic nutrition professional – as I get where people are coming from and I try not to set unrealistic expectations.
ITF: What is the most coveted food in the fridge right now for each member of the household? Why?
VSR: The most coveted food for my daughter and me is tofu. My daughter eats it raw (I have to limit it!) She thinks it takes like cheese. We all enjoy cheese, so it’s probably the wedge of parmesan – just waiting to be eaten.
ITF: Do you believe in leftovers?
VSR: I love leftovers – and am a huge proponent of taking uneaten food home, but we don’t do well with them in my house. Usually, leftovers get relegated to the back of the fridge, inevitable missed and we wind up tossing them.
ITF: What convenience product can you not live without?
VSR: Wow, that a good question – it depends on what you think of as ‘convenience’ food – I feel like so many of our food products are convenient today. We love hummus. I know I can easily whip up a homemade bowl of it, but I buy it. My kids love Sabra hummus, especially the roasted red pepper one. I also love Costco’s hummus. It comes in huge tubs and we use it daily – so it goes fast in my house.
ITF: What brands do you swear by? Why?
VSR: I love Greek yogurt and swear by Chobani (I do enjoy plain and add fruit to it). We also use frozen berries a lot in yogurt and cereals (hot and cold). I swear by Wyman’s Wild Blueberries. I warm them in microwave – and the kids eat bowls of them and drink the juice – like to the nectar of the gods!
ITF: What food/s are important when recalling food memories?
VSR: I loved my grandmother’s cooking – every Sunday she made a delicious meal. I loved her roasted chicken with carrots and red potatoes. It was so juicy and flavorful. Her stuffing was to die for, also. She made the best creamy cucumber salad (with sour cream) – I use plain yogurt today, but it’s very tasty!
ITF: How have your cooking/shopping habits changed over the last 10 years?
VSR: Since having my first child – almost 7 years ago, it’s changed a lot. I have to consider kids into the mix and what they are eating for meals and snacks. The quantity has gone up, as well as the variety. My time is a little tighter so I shop more quickly and purchase staples like bread, milk and yogurt more often. However, I still shop the perimeter first and then go into aisles for specifics like cereal, frozen foods (i.e., whole grains waffles or sweet potato fries).
ITF: If one person could cook for you tonight, who would it be?
VSR: Great question – it would be my grandmother. I miss her and her cooking so much!
ITF: What words of wisdom or advice do you have for other folks who are doing their best every day to fill the fridge?
VSR: Always think about ways to combine the foods in your fridge right now to make tasty, nourishing meals. I love the radio program, The Splendid Table, with Lynne Rosetto Casper for that reason. She can show you how to take minimal ingredients and whip them up into something splendid! Also, if you want to color your diet – think about coloring your refrigerator by keeping ample fruits and veggies in the fridge.
ITF: What are you working on these days that you’d like to tell us about?
VSR: I just completed a series of culinary videos for ehow.com. I am giving my website a facelift to include more culinary videos, as well as a regular blog. My new website and blog, www.victoriashantaretelny.com, will launch in January. So I am excited about that! I am writing my latest column for metroparent magazine now, plus I am always working on new articles – I have a feature article on ways to ‘evolve your eating’ in 2013 coming out in January on MyRecipes.com, a piece on the healthiest foods you’ve never heard of for Oxygen magazine, as well as my take on green coffee beans for Environmental Nutrition. I was just interviewed for Fitness magazine (Feb issue). So it’s busy, fun and always an adventure in the world of nutrition!
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