By Carol Crenna
Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic were former TV reporters who quit to follow their passion…to the mall! Their signature TV shows offer light-hearted lessons in how to shop, as they use their investigative reporting skills to distinguish deals from duds.
Originally launching the hit TV program The Shopping Bags, they have had the long-running Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag on the Oprah Winfrey Network that now airs in 60 countries including the US, Italy, Poland, Israel, Mexico, and Singapore.
Anna and Kristina have recently been successful producing a show called Get Stuffed airing on OLN. Their website annaandkristina.com has also become a popular spot for product reviews and lifestyle and travel tips.
In the interview here, Anna and Kristina offer advice on where to spend and where to use a little self-restraint on both health-related items and shopping for their own homes.
CAROL: Do you consider yourselves healthy eaters?
ANNA WALLNER: We both make a conscious effort to be healthy. I stay away from processed and fast food. Some of what I eat is high fat, like cheese and avocados, but I believe in natural food.
KRISTINA MATISIC: I’m not as successful as Anna, but I do eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean, but not red, meat. I do fall down with French fries and potato chips but I try to limit them as treats…But I can tell you that Anna loves chocolate.
ANNA WALLNER: I’m not saying I don’t eat anything I shouldn’t! I believe if you want the chocolate, eat the chocolate, but just eat one piece. It just takes practise to get used to not gorging or having all of it. I put it away, out of sight, and I have even been known to throw out chocolate.
KRISTINA MATISIC: (Gasp!) I can’t have it in the house. And if it’s not in the house, I invent sweet things. I’ll grab some yogurt and heat jam and pour it over top when I have a craving.
ANNA WALLNER: That’s better than chocolate. I think it’s best to have a treat, like a cookie, when you’re out, so at least you don’t have (and eat) the whole box of cookies at home. Actually, Kristina likes chocolate more than I do!
KRISTINA MATISIC: I do. I like milk chocolate, but I’ve been trying to eat more dark chocolate. We recommend at least 70 percent cocoa.
ANNA WALLNER: Start at 55 percent and work your way up if it’s easier. I find I can eat less and be more satisfied because more cocoa satiates the cravings.
CAROL: How do you buy produce?
ANNA WALLNER: We recommend buying from a store that has a high turnover so it’s fresh. If it’s busy, it has to keep restocking. We both shop stores like this, and we might whine about the long lineups but there is an upside.
We also like to eat what’s in season. Think back to your forefathers and what they ate each season. Seriously consider whether you’re getting the same nutrients from artificially ripened imported strawberries in February than when they’re in season and locally grown. I eat more fruit in summer, and more root vegetables in winter, like parsnips.
ANNA WALLNER: They can be good if you cook them right… with brown sugar!
CAROL: What other food shopping tips would you like to talk about?
ANNA WALLNER: Always read labels, even in health food stores.
Health food store cereals, for example, often have lots of sugar and not much fiber. And just because a natural ingredient is listed, it doesn’t mean it will give you much benefit, or the results you’re looking for. Is kiwi extract in shampoo really going to make that much difference to your hair?
CAROL: What do you think about energy/sports/protein bars?
KRISTINA MATISIC: They have lots of hidden bad fats and sugar. You should decide what you’re going to use it for before buying. If it’s for eating post intense workout, buy the ones with more protein.
If you don’t work out intensely, you don’t need an energy bar. Nutritionists don’t recommend using them as a meal replacement because there is too much sugar and too little of what you need to sustain you, meaning too few quality-food calories.
ANNA WALLNER: And if you do eat one, drink a lot of water afterward because many have added vitamins and minerals that need water to be absorbed, and they have lots of fiber that needs water to go through your system. And, unless you’re a hard core athlete, you also don’t need to quench your thirst with power drinks with electrolytes. Drink water without sugar.
CAROL: You had interesting help to research the best water purifiers and food processors.
ANNA WALLNER: We went to the experts at a pizza parlour and asked them to try out food processors. They chopped the toppings and even made the dough, which some of the machines couldn’t do since they have to be heavy duty to be able to mix and knead it.
The best were Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, and the ones with the motor on the base rather than the side were more powerful. The steel blade was the most important attachment needed.
KRISTINA MATISIC: We went to a wine club and asked them to taste water from different filters because they have a refined sense of taste. We had a Kenmore counter unit, Purultimate on-tap system, Brita jug, and tap water.
Purultimate was the favourite, yet some people picked the tap water. I bought the wrong kind of system for my tap head at home — and it didn’t fit.
CAROL: Your balsamic vinegar research sounded interesting.
ANNA WALLNER: Yes. It must come from Modena or Reggio to be true balsamic, with grades varying from commercial to traditional to imitations. It should say “made with grape must” or “balsamic”, not red wine, and the age should be printed on the bottle.
KRISTINA MATISIC: We did taste tests at a high end restaurant and learned that the older the balsamic, the sweeter and thicker it gets. When buying, swish the vinegar around in the bottle because a good one will “have legs,” meaning coat the sides, like a good wine.
CAROL: Can you offer advice on shopping for fitness equipment?
KRISTINA MATISIC: If a gizmo on TV seems like it’s too good to be true, it is. We tried them all and even measured our thighs before and afterwards and didn’t get the results promised.
For larger equipment like a treadmill, try it at a gym first to see what type and features you like, and wear your runners to try models in the store. You don’t need industrial grade for home, so don’t waste money on the top model. As long as it offers two (continuous) horsepower for strength and one inch deck surface for shock absorbency, it will be good enough.
CAROL: Any surprising results when testing products?
ANNA WALLNER: It was just on my leg! I got eczema. We should get danger pay.
CAROL: You both used to be Global TV health reporters. Was it difficult weeding through the enormous amount of conflicting health information?
ANNA WALLNER: We researched many products and treatments and would feature ones depending on the source – obviously a study sponsored by Pfizer tells you something – and the relevance, and what opposing information there was on it. Just like any news story, health information has to be balanced.
Article by Carol Crenna originally featured in VISTA Magazine