Shop for Heart – Healthy Foods on a Budget in Frederick County

Common market with food

Eating a heart-healthy diet should be easy and cost-effective. Luckily, there are plenty of options right here in our community. We caught up with LiveWell Frederick partners Common Market Co-Op for tips on where and how to start. Check out our Q&A with Susan Schulman, marketing manager of Common Market Co-Op, below.

What are some affordable, heart-healthy foods/ingredients to look for to improve cardiovascular health?  

“Common Market’s Bulk Department allows you to purchase as much or as little as they’d like of heart-healthy products such as nuts, whole grains and oats, olive oil, herbs, spices, nut butters, seeds, teas, coffees and healthy treats—whatever you’re looking for in your diet.

Additionally, Common Market also has its own CM brand of affordable vitamin and mineral supplements such as heart-healthy magnesium, Co-Q-10, Omega 3 fatty acids, psyllium fiber, and more. Our expert Wellness Team can help make suggestions throughout the department.”

What are some simple meals or snacks to make with a few of these heart-healthy ingredients?  

“My daughter and I love to make up our own healthy treats from the Bulk Department. Start with a cup of oats and then add 2-3 tablespoons of chia, flax, or hemp seeds. Sweeten—and stick together—with about ½ cup of your favorite nut butter and honey to taste. Then, get creative with your mix-ins—nuts and seeds, dried fruits, chocolate chips, coconut flakes—all from the bulk department!

I know I don’t eat enough heart-healthy leafy greens, so I often blend them into a smoothie. That way, you get all the healthy fiber that’s missing from juices. Blend a couple of big handfuls of kale and spinach, ½ green apple, ½ cucumber, 2-3 celery stalks, squeeze of lime, 12 + oz water—my go-to morning booster!”

What about cooking tips?

“Definitely use olive oil in place of butter or lard. A favorite healthy cooking option is to sauté in water. Rather than adding salt to the water, add herbs and spices for flavor. Fresh or dried onion, garlic, oregano, and dill are a good starting point. Experiment from there to see what you like. I love a chopped fennel bulb (available from the Common Market’s produce “wet wall”), but that flavor isn’t for everyone!

To water sauté chicken breasts, place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium skillet or saucepan. Add herbs, spices, and water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, about 10 to 12 minutes. Eat alongside your favorite vegetables or slice and add to a hearty salad.

Common Market will also steam fresh seafood while you shop. Just check in with the Meat Department to see what is available.”

What are some tips for shopping for heart-healthy foods on a budget? 

“Look for Common Market’s Co-op Deals, Bundle Deals, and Co-op Stock-Up Case Deals. These sales change every two weeks, so you’ll be able to keep your pantry full of a variety of healthy staples. Common Market accepts food stamps/EBT and offers a 5% discount to customers age 60 and wiser every Wednesday. Although you don’t have to be an owner to shop at the Common Market, owners do get additional discounts and owner-only sales.” 

What are some “don’ts” of choosing heart-healthy food? What should we avoid?  

“People choosing heart-healthy foods tend to avoid sodium and saturated fats like whole-fat dairy and red meat. Common Market has countless plant-based options labeled in dairy and meat coolers throughout the store.”

What’s the best way to gradually introduce more heart-healthy foods into your diet rather than making an abrupt diet change?

“Baby steps! Portion control is really important, so often, just eating one portion size of your favorite food rather than the whole box or bag is a huge step toward diet changes. Protein should be about the size of a deck of cards or your palm, a serving of whole grains should look about the size of a tennis ball, and vegetables should represent ½ your plate. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, red fruits and veggies are beneficial to the heart, so snack on strawberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, even beets, rather than packaged snacks, even if they are labeled ‘healthy.’”

How does Common Market cater to healthier diets and lifestyles? 

“Part of the Common Market Co-op’s mission is to make healthy food and knowledge of that food accessible. We have identified 14 food attributes important to us as a community:

  1. Organic
  2. Local
  3. Gluten-free
  4. Vegan
  5. Non-GMO
  6. Fairly traded
  7. Dairy-free
  8. Grass-fed
  9. Low sodium
  10. Paleo-friendly
  11. Raw
  12. Hormone-free
  13. Cage-free
  14. Free-range

Customers can find these health attributes keys displayed around the store. Each key corresponds to the color-coded information on each price tag. Front End and Service Desk staff are also knowledgeable about this system and are more than happy to help customers find just what they are looking for—or avoiding!”

What are some of your personal favorite heart-healthy foods at Common Market? 

“Common Market’s Meat & Seafood Department is second to none. My favorite omega-3 boosters are salmon, tuna, and trout. Our knowledgeable staff can offer cooking suggestions and often have a recipe card or two for customers to take.

For a healthy fat, I love avocado—on whole-grain toast for breakfast or lunch, in a salad for lunch or dinner, or just straight up as a snack. Common Market’s Café always has fresh house-made guacamole in the Grab & Go case. Dip with bell peppers, carrots, and celery sticks instead of chips.

Tony’s Chocolonely 70% Dark Chocolate is a great treat from a great company. Fairtrade is their #1 goal, empowering cocoa farmers and combating child labor. That 100% makes my heart happy!”

Is Common Market’s frozen food section a good way to access fruits and veggies when they’re not in season? 

“Frozen fruits and veggie options allow shoppers to choose from a wide variety of seasonal ingredients year-round. Frozen fruits and veggies are also often nutritionally more reliable than fresh since freezing can prevent sensitive vitamins and minerals from being lost during transportation. Frozen blends can be useful in smoothies and stir-fries. Common Market has a lot of options. Think organic riced cauliflower blend, organic Chinese stir-fry blend, wheatgrass juice, acai superfruit blend, and more. And we do have 16 doors of frozen treats when you want to indulge.”

Any other tips for shopping for, preparing, or eating heart-healthy foods locally?  

“With so many family farms in and around Frederick, we are lucky to have access to a lot of great local, sustainable, and natural produce and meats. Common Market is happy to help farmers, growers, and consumers reach and support each other. Feeling joy when shopping for, preparing, and eating food is always heart-healthy.”

Susan Schulman is the marketing manager of Common Market Co-Op. In addition to a master’s degree from CU Boulder, she has a certification in traditional Chinese medicine from Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China. She is a certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition affiliated with SUNY.

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