What I learned from touring Whole Foods + dinner menu and recipes 4 comments

What I learned from touring Whole Foods + dinner menu and recipes

I have the feeling I’m the exception here, but I LOVE grocery stores. I love grocery shopping– all the cool ingredients that I can find new uses for or try for the first time, or my tried and true favorites maybe (hopefully) on sale. Just me?

Well, last night we took our Cooking for Optimal Health class to Whole Foods where we toured the entire store and found all sorts of plant-based products, unique produce items and even oil-free food on the hot bar. It was preeetty great!

Now, I’m not saying we should all shop at Whole Foods or specialty markets all the time, but I’d like to point out a few benefits to shopping at non-traditional grocery stores every now and then.

Below, I’m sharing 5 things I learned while touring Whole Foods AND an easy dinner menu (plus recipes) using 4 ingredients I bought while I was there!


5 things I learned while touring Whole Foods

  1. Bulk Bins! I’ve always been a fan, but we found such an array of beans, whole grains, whole grain flours, nuts, seeds, dried fruits– it was wonderful. Bulk bins make it easy to buy the exact amount of something you need for a lower price because you eliminate packaging and the excess that comes in a larger package you don’t need. They also had (seemingly) every type of grain and bean imaginable.
  2. Specialty markets have a bigger selection of produce. So that hard-to-find item in that recipe you haven’t been able to make yet is probably there. I found a new type of broccoli, an amazingly sweet sweet potato (that I made for dinner, recipe below), and five citrus fruits I never see in other stores.
  3. Oil-free salad dressings exist at Whole Foods, and that doesn’t mean the oil is substituted by other ingredients I can’t read. I got an oil-free Balsamic dressing that was so delicious, and I definitely didn’t miss the extra oil. Trish also recommends their oil-free lemon-tahini dressing. **Free tip: Use these as dips for sliced veggies! Carrots will be the first I try.
  4. “Engine 2” is a ‘plant-strong’ brand that makes all sorts of oil-free and no added sugar products like cereals, breads, soups, even chips! We found our first oil-free chip yesterday made by Engine2. 
  5. Reading ingredient labels is the first thing to do while shopping. I used to check the calories and fat first then eventually make it to the ingredients label, but that’s actually the backwards way of doing it, at least to have the best representation of what’s in your food. Read the ingredients label first: if you see 5 types of sugar, hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats), or words you can’t read, you don’t want to buy it.


So there ya have it, my top five takeaways from touring Whole Foods. Now for my dinner menu…


For dinner last night, I bought four things at Whole Foods:

  • A japanese sweet potato
  • WF’s Autumn Blend of lentils (from the bulk bins)
  • A bundle of Dino or Tuscan kale
  • Oil-free Balsamic dressing

Other ingredients I had on hand:

  • Spring lettuce mix
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Minced garlic
  • Curry spice
  • Chili powder
  • Salt and Pepper


Here’s what I did:

  1. Baked my sweet potato for about 40 minutes at 425 degrees (I actually baked multiple so I could have leftovers 🙂 )
  2. Brought a pot of water (4 cups) to a boil, then added one cup of Autumn Blend lentils. I brought these to a boil then lowered to simmer for 20 minutes. With about 10 minutes to go, I added a few shakes of curry spice and a shake of chili powder.
  3. I de-stemmed my kale and chopped it into thin strips. I heated a saute pan to medium heat, added a teaspoon of minced garlic and a splash of water. I stirred this around for 30 seconds, then added my kale, salt and pepper. I sauteed this for about 7-10 minutes (Dino kale is a sturdy green, so takes a little bit longer than other greens to saute) and added splashes of water when necessary.
  4. Lastly, I chopped up a few sun-dried tomatoes then added those to my bowl of spring mix and topped it with balsamic dressing.

To serve, I ended up eating the lentils, sweet potato (cut into chunks) and kale all mixed together. It was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. Serve alongside the salad and enjoy!


NOW, I’d love to know…

What’s your favorite thing about non-traditional grocery stores OR share a recipe using a unique ingredient you’ve found at a specialty market.


Can’t wait to hear from you!


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4 thoughts on “What I learned from touring Whole Foods + dinner menu and recipes

  • Windi Murphy

    I love Whole Foods oil free dressings! The sesame dressing is my favorite and is very low in calories. The oil-free balsamic is terrific too (on salads or drizzled over roasted veggies). The bulk mushroom bins allow me to buy several types of mushrooms in my recipes without spending a ton of money.

    • Casey

      The balsamic dressing I tried was so good! I’ll try it on roasted vegetables next. And that’s a great idea to get mushrooms from bulk bins! Get different types in the exact amount you need. Thanks for the comment Windi, love these tips!

  • Gayle Darby

    Love the info about Whole Foods tour! I do shop there often and have been buying beets for the first time!
    Yum. Enjoying your blog. When is the next cooking class with Mrs. Pastides? Gayle

    • Casey

      That’s great, Gayle! I tried beets for the first time a few weeks ago, can’t believe its taken me that long. We don’t have any classes with Ms. Pastides on the books right now (that could change), but we always offer classes with her in the fall. Sign-up for our newsletter to get weekly updates or keep checking our classes page to see what’s coming up! Thanks, Gayle 🙂