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Must-Know Foodie Tips on Shopping, Prepping and Staying Fit

Celebrities from the food and nutrition world share their best hacks and let us take a peek at their grocery lists

spinner image celebrities shopping from left to right danny trejo then devin alexander then carla hall
From left: Danny Trejo, Devin Alexander and Carla Hall
Danny Trejo/Shayan Asgharnia/Vallarta Supermarkets/Devin Alexander/Maggie Shannon/Vons /Carla Hall/Jared Soares/Wagshal’s

​​​Who better than professional foodies to help us make our meals go from drab to delicious. Here’s advice from six experts on using what you have around the house to make a meal (hello tortillas!), shortcuts to save you time, what items are worth getting fresh and more.

spinner image actor and chef danny trejo eating an apple in a gorcery store
Danny Trejo/Shayan Asgharnia/Vallarta Supermarkets

Danny Trejo, 79, actor and restaurateur

Trejo’s growing restaurant empire — he now operates a chain of five Trejo’s Tacos — demonstrates that healthy food can be fast, easy and, most important, affordable, he says. Growing up, affording healthy food was a real issue. “The first-of-the-month meals could be pretty elaborate, but then along the 15th, that’s when we’d say, ‘Hey, Mom, what’s this?’ and she’d say, ‘It’s called never mind, eat it.’ “

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That free-form approach to cooking has stuck with him. Breakfast is often scrambled eggs with tortillas (always traditional corn tortillas — “they’re a lot healthier”). In fact, “You can put just about anything in a tortilla,” he says. “Whatever sounds good, just put it in a corn tortilla and you’re set.” At the local market near his home in Los Angeles, he’ll always stuff his cart with fruit; come Sunday, Trejo likes putting out a big tray with blue cheese dressing, fruits and vegetables, and it’s “Let’s go, Rams!”

One thing you won’t find in his shopping cart: super-hot sauce. It’s an aversion left over from his childhood. “The men in my family would say, ‘Hey, Danny, don’t eat this, it’s for men.’ He just called you a girl! Now you gotta eat it. And it felt like your teeth would fall out.” He prefers seasoning his food with pico de gallo — “something that adds flavor rather than just heat.”

How does Trejo stay in such intimidating physical shape heading into his ninth decade? Weight training and plenty of walking.

“The biggest problem, especially in the Latino community, is that a lot of our food is starchy, a lot of our food is fatty,” he says. “So if you don’t exercise, it’s going to sit there and you’re going to get fat. I’ve been the same weight — 175 — for years.”

What’s in Trejo’s cart: Eggs, chicken, corn tortillas, cheese, mangoes, ice cream and some not-too-spicy hot sauce

spinner image chef and t v host carla hall shopping for fresh fruit
Carla Hall/Jared Soares/Wagshal’s

Carla Hall, 59, chef and TV host

During the COVID pandemic, Hall thought she might want to become a bodybuilder. She started working out like a fiend while following a strict regimen that included eating lots of broccoli, chicken and rice. “Then I realized that the women had to wear those crazy suits and high heels, and I was, like, ‘Oh, no!’ ” laughs the former star of The Chew.

Today, easy and sensible is Hall’s shopping strategy. A frequent choice is a bag of pre-shredded vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbage. “I never bother to cut them myself,” she confides. And knowing how to cook them is crucial. “A lot of people overcook their vegetables,” she says. Instead, try cooking them briefly using high heat in an oven, skillet or grill. “I have even gotten people to like asparagus: Cook them in a little cast-iron skillet, sear them until they’re slightly bendy, and add a little salt, lemon zest and herbs.”

Salads are another way she keeps things simple. “A lot of people don’t think about texture” when it comes to salads, she advises. “You need something smooth and something crunchy and something chewy.” Her secret salad tip: She buys cherry tomatoes on the vine, then soaks the vines in olive oil, giving the oil a grassy tomato flavor. She makes her own dressing with yellow mustard, hot sauce, a bit of honey, oil and whatever vinegar is on hand. “Put it all in a jar and shake it. It’s easy.”

One area where Hall doesn’t scrimp: “Eggs. My grandfather was a doctor, and there was a lot of bartering for his services, and we would often get eggs that were just harvested. It’s such a different taste — there’s nothing like it.” And while she still often returns to her chicken, broccoli and rice, one thing that has changed in recent years, Hall says, is how she cooks: During the pandemic, she dusted off the air fryer in her attic and learned how to use it. “It’s become my best friend.”

What’s in Hall’s cart: Precut veggies, tomatoes on the vine, full-fat dairy and lots of eggs

spinner image left david katz looking at fresh broccoli right david katz holding a grocery basket full of fresh vegetables
David Katz/Bryan Anselm/Edge of the Woods

David Katz, M.D., 60, author, lifestyle medicine specialist and founder/CEO of Diet ID, Inc.

As a child, Katz loved riding horses. One day, he says, “I looked into the eyes of a horse and I looked into the eyes of a cow, and I thought, I don’t see much of a difference here.

Katz gave up eating mammals on the spot and has since gravitated to a nearly vegan diet. “I don’t think you can say it’s unethical to eat animals,” he says. “But incarcerating them from birth and subjecting them to ongoing abuse is a different story.”

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Like most people who eschew meat, Katz pays close attention to getting enough protein — an important issue for older people. “If you source that extra protein from seeds, nuts, and grains like quinoa, and especially lentils, beans and chickpeas, you’re getting a fairly dense distribution of protein,” he explains. “At the end of the day, if you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lentils, seeds, nuts and whole grains, and if you mostly drink water when you’re thirsty, you can’t go too far wrong.”

What’s in Katz’s cart: Vegetables and fruits in every color; oats and other whole grains; nuts, seeds and legumes

spinner image chef sean sherman picking fresh herbs inset sherman's grocery shopping basket
Nate Ryan

Sean Sherman, 49, Indigenous chef and cookbook author

Much of Sherman’s food shopping doesn’t happen in a supermarket. Or in a bodega, a big-box store or even online. In fact, you may find him foraging for dinner in the fields near his home in Minnesota. Wild plants like dandelion, wood sorrel and purslane complement locally grown foods like pumpkin and beans; meats might be rabbit, duck or venison, and fish, including northern pike, walleye and lake trout, could come from nearby lakes. Meals are often seasoned with wild bergamot — an oregano-like herb that grows wild in the upper Midwest.

Known as the Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman is an Oglala Lakota author and the founder of Owamni, a Minneapolis restaurant that specializes in “precolonial” foods — the indigenous foods of North America that existed before the arrival of Europeans, who brought with them wheat flour, cane sugar, dairy, beef, chicken and pork. The James Beard Award winner also established the Indigenous Food Lab, a research and teaching facility that educates others about original American cuisine.

“The indigenous diet is the true diet,” he says. “It’s low-glycemic, low-fat and lower in sodium, and there’s so much plant diversity. It exemplifies an ideal healthy diet for anyone.” Many of the plants he can’t forage, he’ll grow in his home garden. “I enjoy making my own spice-rack stuff,” he says, “drying out herbs I’ve grown.”

Of course, not everything Sherman cooks comes right from the earth. “I shop lightly, but frequently, and I buy little bits of enough stuff to make dinners.” He’ll purchase a lot of dried staples in bulk, including corn, rice, beans and chiles. And almost every shopping trip finds him coming home with a few different fresh vegetables in his cart. He also splurges on ocean shellfish, including oysters, mussels and scallops. Meat from the store might include lamb, goat and lots of bison, any of which is likely to end up in a tortilla, he says. “I love game tacos, as well as sweet potatoes and wild rice bowls.”

Sherman avoids fast food and processed foods whenever possible. Favorite snacks are simple dark chocolate and homemade popcorn with olive oil and salt. When reading nutrition labels, he looks to avoid products that are high in salt or carbohydrates. “Fewer ingredients, fewer preservatives,” he says. “I’m looking for things that are real.”

What’s in Sherman’s cart: Seasonal vegetables, fresh fish, dried corn, beans and dried chiles

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spinner image left dean ornish and wife anne ornish sampling fruit right dean ornish scooping almonds
Dean and Anne Ornish/Lauren Segal/Good Earth Natural Foods

Dean Ornish, M.D., 70, lifestyle medicine specialist and best-selling author

Ornish will always be known as the man who put the president on a diet.

After years of heart issues, Bill Clinton turned to Ornish to help him drop pounds and keep his arteries clear. Ornish responded with the plant-based lifestyle program he’s been prescribing for his patients for years that’s now reimbursed by Medicare when accessed virtually. It’s very low in fat and sugar, meaning that in addition to most animal foods, fatty fruits like olives, avocados and coconut are also off the table, and nuts and seeds are eaten in moderation. It also includes exercise, stress management, and social support: “Eat well, move more, stress less, love more,” is Ornish’s mantra.

But if he sounds like a dietary downer, Ornish begs to differ.

“A lot of people think, Am I going to live longer, or is it just going to seem longer?” he says with a laugh. But he says that a low-fat, plant-based diet can provide fast results. “Your brain is getting more blood, so your cognitive function improves. Your skin is getting more blood, so you look younger. Your heart gets more blood flow so you can often reverse heart disease. Your sex organs are getting more blood in a way that works like Viagra.” ​

To amp up the joy around the Ornish house, Dean often joins his wife, Anne, founder of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine (and co-author of their book UnDo It!) in what she calls her “full-sensory meditations.” ​​​“When we give our full attention to what we’re eating, we enjoy it much more fully,” Anne says. “After the first of couple bites, most of us go into autopilot. When we slow down and recruit our senses, one by one, we can spend several minutes savoring a high-quality piece of dark chocolate and get far more from it than mindlessly consuming a whole chocolate bar,” she adds. “Even a single bite can be exquisitely pleasurable if you’re fully in the moment.”

In the Ornishes’ shopping cart, there is a lot of fresh produce, especially fruit. “Frozen fruits are less expensive, and you can eat them any time of the year.” Almond and soy milk are his go-to dairy alternatives; tofu, tempeh, beans, and vegan yogurt and vegan cheese are also in the mix. And finding pleasure in eating is important as well, Ornish says. “Food has a way of bringing people together. And intimacy is healing.”

What’s in Ornish’s cart: Dark chocolate, blueberries, fresh and frozen produce, soy and almond milk, tofu and tempeh, beans and lentils​

spinner image left chef author and t v host devin alexander in the baking aisle inset devin alexanders shopping basket
Devin Alexander/Maggie Shannon/Vons

Devin Alexander, 52, chef, author and TV host

Alexander knows what it’s like to be ashamed of her weight. By age 15, she had reached 200 pounds, and she struggled to find a healthy path forward. “It was the ’80s. Richard Simmons was not a relatable role model for a teenage girl,” she says.

Alexander decided to cook her way out of her weight trap. She educated herself about nutrition and culinary science, eventually becoming one of the stars of The Biggest Loser, where she taught contestants how to make decadent foods healthy. She uses the sugar substitute stevia, cocoa powder, zero-percent-fat Greek yogurt and a tiny bit of salt to make a breakfast for her young daughter that tastes like chocolate pudding. (For more adult tastes, she’ll do a similar trick to create a healthier White Russian.)

As a mom, “easy” is her dinnertime mantra. Some basil, bits of wheat bread, garlic and Parmesan cheese are quickly blended into a pesto, then spread on salmon with some olive oil. “It bakes into a crust on the salmon, and I can make it in 15 minutes,” she says. Or she’ll throw pork tenderloin or chicken into a slow cooker or pressure cooker, then top it with a mild salsa verde or barbecue sauce; the meat can become a taco, the topping for a rice bowl or an ingredient in a variety of other dishes. Another easy, healthy favorite: top shrimp with some lower-sodium Old Bay seasoning and pop it in the steamer for a quick and inexpensive meal.

Alexander credits a lot of her creativity to keeping a handle on her food budget. Her top tip: “Use the digital apps from your supermarket. They’ll give you a considerable amount of money off” select items, she says. “It’s my own little Chopped challenge: Buy what’s on sale and see what you can do with it.

“When I was struggling with my weight, I used to think I couldn’t have certain things,” she adds. Her goal today is to show others that healthy food can be fun. That’s the message of The Land of Secret Superpowers: Vegetables, her book for parents and grandparents who want to teach healthy cooking to their youngsters. “Once you truly believe that eating healthy is fun, it becomes much easier to keep the pounds off,” she says.

What’s in Alexander’s cart: Cocoa powder, phyllo dough, agave nectar, Greek yogurt, almond flour, salmon, shrimp and mild salsa verde

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