Grocery Diaries 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 Vermont resident with endometriosis and a mushroom allergy.
: Danielle Colburn: 34: Commercial real estate lending officer and nutrition coach: Winooski, Vermont: White woman Mushroom allergy and endometriosis: Shops for one person four times a month
Danielle Colburn has always been interested in the reason behind people’s food choices. Her interest in nutrition became more personal after she was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2017.Endometriosis is a chronic condition that happens when tissue from the uterine lining (or very similar tissue) grows in other places, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Regardless of where they’re located, these cells respond to the hormonal changes of your menstrual cycle, meaning they can bleed and lead to painful endometriosis symptoms, including severe pelvic pain and gastrointestinal issues like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating, the Mayo Clinic explains. Experts aren’t sure about the exact cause of endometriosis, although they have theories. Currently, there is no clear connection between diet and endometriosis development or symptom severity. But researchers are studying whether lifestyle habits thought to affect chronic inflammation, such as alcohol consumption and diet, are factors in endometriosis, according to a 2018 paper published in the Journal of Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Disorders. You’re probably used to hearing about inflammation in a negative context, but the process isn’t always bad. Normally, it’s a physical response to infection or injury that tells your body to make white blood cells when needed, according to the Mayo Clinic. Inflammation becomes a problem when it is persistent and spread throughout the body rather than an isolated immune reaction.Endometriosis treatment runs the gamut. One go-to recommendation is hormonal contraception, which can work in varying ways to reduce this condition’s hallmark symptoms. Danielle uses a Mirena IUD, which contains the hormone progestin to thin the uterine lining, which can in turn limit bleeding and pain. But many people with endometriosis are interested in lifestyle-related ways of potentially managing their condition too, such as tweaking their diet in search of additional relief, even though it’s not guaranteed. There is no one “endometriosis diet” that science has definitively proven to be helpful in managing this condition. However, after talking to her doctor and doing some research, Danielle has limited her intake of items like alcohol, dairy, and red meat. The scientific jury is still out, but there’s a lot of interest in how these foods may or may not contribute to systemic inflammation. (It’s best to do any kind of elimination diet under the care of someone like a doctor or registered dietitian, if at all possible, to make sure you do it safely.) Danielle has found that she has fewer endometriosis symptoms like cramps and bloating after omitting these kinds of items. Although she hasn’t been tested for intolerances to these foods, so there’s no way to say for sure whether she might have any unknown sensitivities, she does believe the way she eats has helped to limit her endometriosis symptoms and help her feel better overall. On top of these modifications, Danielle doesn’t eat mushrooms due to a food allergy, so she carefully reads the ingredients list of every item she buys.
“I have to be really cognizant of every food label when I pick something up because they’re very trendy and sneak into things you wouldn’t expect,” she explains.
In the case of food allergies, a person’s immune system reacts after eating a specific item, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms vary for each person, but consuming any amount of an allergy-triggering food can cause issues such as gas, hives, and breathing problems. Undoubtedly, Danielle has a lot to consider at the grocery store. Thankfully, she is fortunate to have a variety of grocery options so she can buy specialty foods that suit her preferred way to eat. Here are 10 items she picks up in a typical grocery trip.
Danielle likes to eat a complete meal in the morning because it keeps her full for several hours. “Breakfast is the meal I look forward to most. Taking the time to fuel my body properly is a small act of self-care to start my day,” Danielle says. Bananas are a breakfast staple that Danielle eats alongside some nut butter, blends into smoothie bowls, or mixes into her protein pancakes. “I eat at least one banana a day,” she says. She likes that bananas are versatile and can easily sweeten so many meals. Danielle’s roommate is also a big fan of the fruit. “We joke in our house that it’s a tragedy if we run out of bananas,” Danielle says.
“This I use for everything,” says Danielle, who relies on peanut butter as an easy source of satiating fat and protein. She adds a drizzle on top of her smoothie bowls, stuffs some into celery, and makes snack bites using peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and maple syrup. “Sometimes I eat just a spoonful out of the jar,” she says.
Danielle makes spring rolls because they are easy to prepare in advance. “When I don’t meal prep, I find myself reaching for whatever is quick and available and it often doesn’t leave me feeling well after,” she says. Her wraps include crispy tofu, jasmine rice, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables that she has on hand. “It’s pretty easy to chop and cook and just have them ready to throw together for either lunch or dinner,” she says.
Also on the easy-to-prepare list: fajitas and breakfast burritos, which are common meals for Danielle. But she doesn’t just relegate breakfast burritos to the morning. “I’ll eat these any time of day,” she says. Since Danielle also doesn’t eat gluten, she’s had to look for alternatives to flour tortillas. She likes this brand best because the tortillas don’t fall apart like some other gluten-free options. “These are solid and they taste good,” she says.
On top of viewing breakfast as a great way to fuel her body for the day, Danielle just loves breakfast foods like this Purely Elizabeth Granola. “I tried this on a whim from the grocery store, and I can’t imagine eating any other granola,” Danielle says. She commonly eats this with Greek yogurt or on top of a smoothie bowl for a satisfying breakfast.
“I live in Vermont, so I’m a little biased toward Vermont maple syrup,” Danielle says. She usually buys whichever local syrup her grocery store sells, or picks up Purinton Maple at a local farmers market. “It’s really nice to be able to see where your money is going and how it is being used to help your local community thrive,” she says. That’s why Danielle buys some of her produce through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program at a local farm and purchases local syrup to top her protein pancakes. “Vermont is a truly special place, so I want to do my part to help keep it that way,” she says.
“I usually keep at least one in my purse if I get stuck somewhere, and I’m hungry,” Danielle says. “If I could only pick one, I think Mixed Berry would be my favorite flavor.” She prefers RxBar over other protein bars because she doesn’t think they taste as sweet.
Since Danielle doesn’t consume dairy but still prefers not to drink black coffee, she looks for creamy substitutes to traditional creamer. “I like this because it’s nice and thick like a normal dairy-based creamer would be, but it’s almond milk instead,” Danielle says. “It sweetens my coffee just enough.”
Every week, Danielle makes a batch of juice shots that require lemon and ginger. She originally discovered these shots at a local juice shop and began making her own after the business unfortunately closed down during the pandemic. Danielle likes that the shots give her a little extra boost of nutrients. Lemon juice has vitamin C, and ginger contains antioxidants, which are compounds in food like fruits and vegetables that help prevent or delay cell damage. Granted, mixing a lemon ginger shot is not a magical way to drastically change anything about your health, including your immunity, especially because a shot will only contain a small amount of each ingredient. Danielle acknowledges that any positive benefits she might attribute to this concoction could very well be a placebo effect—but she just feels like her best self when she adds these into the mix of her larger healthy-eating picture.