Welcome to Grocery Diaries, a new series that illustrates just how varied and personalized “healthy eating” really is. So many factors impact the choices we make at the grocery store, including access and affordability, health conditions, our individual cultural backgrounds, even what simply makes us (and our taste buds) happy. So we asked people across the country to share their grocery lists with us, and then called up a few of them to ask for more details. Why do they buy what they buy? How much do they spend? Who are they shopping for? What health conditions or nutritional concerns are they thinking about when they choose, for instance, almond milk over cow’s milk, or particular flavors or spices or treats? In this “Grocery Diaries” installment, we hear from a Los Angeles personal trainer and barre instructor who loves to eat nutrient-dense meals—but also sometimes has popcorn for breakfast.
Name: Jessie Lee Ezickson
Occupation: ACE-certified personal trainer and Pure Barre–certified instructor
Location: Los Angeles
Race/Gender: White woman
Health conditions/dietary restrictions to consider: Avoids nightshades, meat, and gluten
Grocery shopping frequency: Shops for one person four times a month
Jessie Lee Ezickson isn’t a fan of meal prep. “I don’t know what I’m going to want tomorrow,” she tells SELF. Instead, she mainly lets her hunger guide how she eats from day to day, pulling together creative and delicious meals with her grocery-shopping staples.
Several years ago, Jessie realized eating nutrient-dense foods, meaning ones that have plenty of vitamins and minerals, helped her feel energized during training sessions. Because of this, she eats a lot of fruits and vegetables. Jessie considers herself an adventurous eater but avoids certain foods because they cause her some gastrointestinal stress like vomiting and uncomfortable bloating. For this reason, she doesn’t buy nightshades (these include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant), meat (except for fish), and many foods containing gluten. Jessie doesn’t have a diagnosed condition like a food allergy, which causes a (potentially severe) immune response when someone eats a specific food, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But, understandably, Jessie prefers not to eat foods that make her feel sick and shops with that in mind.
Living in Los Angeles, Jessie has plenty of grocery stores to choose from, but usually shops at Trader Joe’s. “I just love Trader Joe’s because they always have some kind of new product coming out,” she says. Here are 10 items she picks up in a typical grocery trip.
Whenever the weather cools, Jessie looks forward to eating popcorn. She buys this particular brand of microwave popcorn because the ingredients list is simple: popcorn, olive oil, and salt. Sometimes, Jessie adds her own seasonings to add more flavor—rosemary is one of her favorite popcorn toppings. And she finds that popcorn is a great snack even in the morning. “I’ve definitely had it for breakfast a few times,” she says.
2. Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto: $3.79
“I can’t have any normal pasta sauces made with tomatoes. I was in the sauce section and this caught my eye,” Jessie says. She uses this pesto to make pizza, wraps, brown rice pasta, and flatbreads using seasonal fruits and vegetables. “I have a little calendar that shows when everything is in season and when it’s out of season,” she says. One of her favorite pizza recipes is a peach, mozzarella, and pesto combination that she makes during the summer.
3. Trader Joe’s Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snack: $.99
“I’m obsessed with these. I don’t usually snack—my meals tend to keep me full—but sometimes I want something that is a little salty,” Jessie says. When that happens, she might reach for a pack of these as a snack before dinner. “I like the wasabi flavor with the seaweed.” She also likes seaweed because it has less saturated fat than many other crunchy snacks like potato chips. While Jessie doesn’t track her fat consumption, she does prefer to eat less saturated fat when possible. Saturated fat can potentially raise low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which over time could increase your risk of health issues like cardiovascular disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
These crackers are ideal on charcuterie boards with cheese, according to Jessie. “I love garlic. I would put garlic on everything. Now that it’s on crackers, I’m the happiest girl in the world,” she says. Even her family and friends who eat gluten say these crackers are delicious, according to Jessie. In fact, her parents have started buying these solely based on the flavor.
5. Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Cherry Chocolate Chip: $3.99
This is Jessie’s favorite dessert whenever she craves something sweet. “It’s so creamy, and I like that it has big chunks of cherries in it,” she says. “I’m a sucker for chocolate-covered fruit.” It also contains less saturated fat compared to traditional ice cream made with cow’s milk. Overall, Jessie gravitates toward frozen desserts because they remind her of family dinners. “My grandparents always served mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert,” she says. She recalls how her grandfather carefully cut each serving into a square, which made the dish feel even more special. “It’s ingrained in my memory,” she says.