Thu07242014

Your Health

Specialist dishes out advice on good eats


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Whole Foods Market in Los Altos hired Christina Panowicz to fill the new position of healthy eating specialist. Panowicz, who earned a degree in health promotion science, offers customers guidance in their food choices and hosts in-store classes on a variety of healthful-eating topics.

Christina Panowicz has a simple suggestion for customers at Whole Foods Market in Los Altos who seek healthful eating advice – pay her a visit.

Whole Foods hired Panowicz, armed with a University of Connecticut degree in health promotion science, in October to serve as the Los Altos store’s healthy eating specialist. The newly created position, according to Ali Gibbs, marketing and community outreach coordinator, is part of a Whole Foods pilot program designed to advise and educate shoppers who seek a change for the better in their eating habits or for those with specific dietary needs.

“She’s a free resource to anyone who walks through our doors,” said Gibbs, who added that the Los Altos location is one of just a handful of Whole Foods Markets in the Bay Area currently offering the service. “She’s just a wealth of knowledge.”

On-site guidance

On any given day, Panowicz can be found – ready to chat all things food – at her kiosk near the market’s prepared-foods section. Among the most frequent inquiries, she said, are those from parents looking to encourage their children to eat nutritious foods.

“That’s a big one,” she said with a chuckle, adding that she typically offers parents alternatives such as vegetable- and fruit-rich smoothie recipes to try at home.

Educating children on the benefits of a healthful diet, she added, is a particular motivating factor for her.

“A big thing is just teaching kids how to cook, too,” she said. “A lot of them don’t really know where their foods come from.”

Inquisitive parents aside, Panowicz said she often encounters customers who are short on time and seek a quick, healthful food option for lunch.

“People come up to me all the time and just say, ‘I’m hungry. What can I eat?’” she said. “I like to think of myself as a support system for people who want to eat healthfully.”

In addition to providing immediate on-site guidance, Panowicz offers learning opportunities for those pursuing a lifestyle change. She hosts monthly in-store classes on a variety of food-based topics, such as label reading, how to eat healthfully while eating out and creating a healthful diet on a limited budget.

Panowicz also schedules outings to walk the Stanford Dish with customers as well as monthly food tours in the Los Altos store that guide customers limited by gluten-free or other restricted diets.

“A lot of the time, people are told by a doctor what they can and can’t eat, but they struggle to apply those restrictions to their lives,” she said. “We really want to bridge that gap.”

Customers visiting Panowicz’s kiosk can also find health-conscious and diet-specific recipes – as part of the company’s “Four Pillars of Healthy Eating” program. The program promotes the consumption of a nutrient-dense, plant-strong diet, which includes eating the healthful fats found in foods like nuts and avocados. The company’s program also encourages the consumption of “whole foods,” or locally sourced, organic and unprocessed foods, as part of a “back-to-basics” approach, Panowicz added.

For more information on Panowicz’s services, visit www.facebook.com/WFMLosAltos or www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/losaltos.

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