"The No.1 item on your list of ways to get healthy — and keep healthy — is a good diet filled with fresh, unprocessed natural food grown with the least amounts of chemicals," says Dr. Erika Schwartz, author of The New Hormone Solution.
Cooking meals at home is the best way to know exactly what's in your food, but many would-be home chefs have little experience in shopping beyond their local grocery store, and aren't sure how to find and choose the best foods. Who better to ask than a couple of the best-recognized top chefs in the country?
Chefs know their reputation depends not only on their recipes and cooking techniques, but also the ability to find and select the freshest, most flavorful foods for their gourmet dishes.
"Learning to shop is something all good chefs have to learn early in their careers," Lee Anne Wong, who was featured on the first season of the television show Top Chef and is now at the helm of the Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu, told Newsmax Health.
"The single most important thing in cooking is to use good, fresh food," says Steven Rojas, executive chef at Adena Grill & Wine Bar in Hallandale Beach, Florida, and formally of California's Saddle Peak Lodge, which was awarded a coveted Michelin star. "Chefs build their menus around the freshest, finest ingredients they can find," he tells Newsmax Health.
Here are their best tips to help you shop like a top chef:
• Shop farmer’s markets and roadside stands. "Good chefs support their local growers," Rojas says. "Find local farmers and shop at roadside stands, and buy from local butchers and fish markets. The food is fresher, it tastes better, and it isn't usually grown with as many pesticides as foods that have to be shipped. You can eat something that night that was picked earlier in the day."
• Buy organic when possible. "Chefs like to use organic products when possible," Wong says. "Organic tastes better, especially the meats and produce." While organic costs more, Wong points out that many stores, including Walmart, now carry organic products at good prices.
• Shop the same places as your local chefs. "Ask your favorite restaurant where they buy their fish and go there to shop," Rojas said.
• Get to know the workers at farmer’s markets and produce markets in grocery stores. "They'll make sure you get the freshest produce available, and if possible, at the best price," Wong says.
• Take your senses shopping with you. Use your sight, smell, feel, and even your hearing (the milk in fresh coconuts should slosh around when shaken). Fruits, such as melons, should feel heavy for their size. "Always sniff," Rojas says. "If you smell an orange and smell nothing but a sterile odor, chances are the orange will taste the same."
• Don’t shop in a hurry, be focused, and spend a lot of time in the produce aisle. "Shop slowly and examine the produce before you buy," Wong says.
• Don't shop during rush hour, and don't shop at the end of the day. "Rush hour is too hectic and by the end of the day, everything will be picked over," Wong says.
• Buy produce in season. "Not only will it taste better than something shipped weeks ago from another country, it will cost less as well," says Rojas.
• Use a shopping list, but be flexible. "If apples are on your list but they don't look good and the pears do, switch," says Wong. "A shopping list separates chefs from amateurs. I always shop with a list. It also keeps me from over-buying."
• If the produce looks wilted or old, ask the manager if there is fresher food in the back. "If they don’t have anything fresher, ask when new produce will be delivered," says Wong. "If they won’t bother to look, shop elsewhere."
• Buy fresh herbs for cooking. "Chefs always use fresh whenever possible," Wong says.
• Shop at least once a week. Don't buy more than you will eat in a week, and shop even more often for highly perishable items like lettuce. Produce at farmer's markets is usually freshly stocked for Saturdays. "Shop early in the week for fish," Rojas said.
"You’ll probably find your best prices at roadside and farmer's markets," said Wong. "Even if the prices don’t beat those in your local grocery, you're still getting top quality, fresh food."
© 2023 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.