Like many children of the '70s, Mindy Greenberg grew up with pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers.
"Our pantry was full of beautiful colors — sugar cereal, Pop-Tarts and Cheetos," she said.
Beyond the plethora of processed foods, the family had a grapefruit tree in the yard, from which they'd pluck part of their breakfast. That tree planted the seeds that salvaged Greenberg's health when, 20 years later as a mom of three children, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Popping pills to combat the aches and malaise, she still felt sluggish.
"I had a vicious inflammation process going on in my body," she said.
At the suggestion of a health coach, she cut white sugar, white flour, gluten and dairy from her diet, adding fruits and vegetables. As her diet transformed, her health — and her family — followed suit.
"Food became my medicine," said Greenberg, whose turnaround propelled her to earn her health coach practitioner certification.
Now she rehabilitates other families' diets, one grocery cart at a time , through her business Mindfully Nourished by Mindy. Like a personal shopper, Greenberg accompanied some moms on a recent trip through a Whole Foods Market, identifying alternatives to the defaults of family diets, and pointing to her college-age son Alec, now 6 foot 4.
"It's all the kale he has eaten for 19 years," she said with a laugh.
Fresh or frozen: "Where do you think my favorite place in the store is?" Greenberg began.
Produce? many ventured. Wine? joked others.
"The frozen fruit aisle," she answered. "It's one of the most underrated aisles in the store. Frozen organic blueberries are flash-frozen at their most nutritionally sound point. They're sometimes healthier than their fresh counterparts." She sprinkles this superfood on oatmeal and purees it in smoothies. Some kids enjoy popping them as a snack while they're still slightly frozen. (Bonus: They're less messy that way.)
Sandwich stuff: "I'm not a huge fan of canned products but this works when I'm in a hurry," Greenberg said, pointing to Valley Fresh organic canned chicken as an alternative to cold cuts. She sometimes puts some in a brown rice tortilla wrap, packed with fresh vegetables and a smear of grapeseed oil Vegenaise.
With lettuce, the darker, the better for iron and calcium. Also, looser lettuce tends to have more phytonutrients than a head that's tightly wound, she said. New to kale? Cut out the tough center rib, or slide your hand down the stem to separate the leafy part. If your kids spurn it solo, camouflage it in smoothies.
Good grains: In another frozen case are the cakelike sprouted Manna Breads. They incorporate flour and other ingredients in their pre-refined state to preserve nutrients. They contain live grains, loaded with enzymes that are activated by sprouting. A loaf of this is denser, moister, smaller and pricier than conventional bread. "But one lasts me about two weeks. I keep it frozen and cut a tiny slice, because it's really rich." Her kids love Rudi's cinnamon raisin bread. She toasts and tops either with coconut oil to accompany omelets. Coconut oil, sold in a jar as a soft solid, "has a million uses," she added, including as an antifungal moisturizer.
For a pasta fix, Greenberg likes Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta. Toss in Whole Foods' 365 brand frozen mixed vegetables or chopped kale to add value, or drop a strip of Eden Kombu kelp into the cooking liquid, removing it before serving. "Kombu adds minerals from the sea and a slightly salty, not fishy, flavor."
A salad kids will eat: From Whole Foods' salad bar, Greenberg typically fills a tub with the Detox Salad. "They sell out of it often," she said. Search online for copycat recipes, with cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, sunflower seeds, cranberries, etc. On Sundays, Greenberg sets aside time to wash and chop veggies for the week ahead. One of her favorites: blood-boosting beets. "They're the Viagra of veggies," she said. She roasts them for an hour and the skin slips right off.
Snack attack: "I'm a chip freak," Greenberg admitted, tracing her vice to a childhood lunch: PBJ on white bread with Cheetos. Now she redirects that craving to Lundberg brown rice chips with sea salt, dipped in hummus. Beans, high in fiber, are another of Greenberg's favorite snacks, dolloped on a rice cracker. She prefers white northern beans from Whole Foods' olive bar; absent that amenity, she'll settle for canned.
For sweet teeth: Greenberg keeps high-protein goji berries, from the trail mix aisle, in her car for snacking. She adds them to homemade trail mix with almonds and pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Or she splurges on packaged cacao-covered goji berries. She cautions against candied nuts, often loaded with sugar.
"If you can eliminate one thing in your diet, it should be white sugar," she said. Aspartame is worse, she said. She uses stevia in her coffee; agave syrup or honey in oatmeal. For the occasional batch of cookies, she suggests whole wheat flour recipes. Blackstrap molasses in ginger cookies delivers antioxidants.
Milk: Her kids drink cow's milk; Greenberg prefers goat milk. "It's similar to human breast milk and is more easily broken down than dairy," whose lactose can be tough to digest. "This is a staple in my house," she added, pointing to Mount Sterling raw goat cheddar cheese. She doesn't fixate on fat content. "I'm more into moderation."
Juice and soda: Greenberg's kids sometimes complain there's nothing to drink in the house. "There's water," she says, unapologetically. She avoids vitamin-packed fruit drinks because of sugar content.
Supplements: "I'm not a big multivitamin person," she said. But she takes a turmeric tablet daily, approves of fish oil and recommends vitamin D, especially in northern winters. "If you were to test anyone, they'd probably be deficient."
Note that kids may not instantly or eternally embrace healthy choices. "Mine are teenagers now," Greenberg said. "I'm passing the plate to them. Hopefully my voice will ring in their heads."
(You can get more health coaching from Greenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.)