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Jetcetera: Grocery shopping with Jets' Jim Slater

Food shopping among Slater's passions

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For most hockey players, the locker-room is a sacred place where they discuss their opponents, shoot the breeze, relax and get ready for the game.

Jim Slater is not most hockey players.

Sure, he does all of the above, but he's also a walking and talking encyclopedia on food and a strict follower of an organic diet who has passed on newspaper articles on nutrition in the locker-room. He has even swapped recipes with the occasional like-minded teammate in there.

In fact, when asked recently what he likes to do in his spare time, he replied, "Go grocery shopping."

He's not kidding. The 30-year-old takes his body's food intake very seriously. He doesn't see it so much as something to be enjoyed but rather a means of providing optimum fitness and energy levels so he can excel as a professional athlete. "I take pride in my body and my health. It's gotten me to this point in my career. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you," he said.

But eating organic in Winnipeg can be tricky. The kind of organic big-box stores that exist in the United States haven't expanded to the Manitoba capital, so Slater has had to research the local grocery market so he can buy what he needs. He invited Jetcetera to come along on a recent excursion.

He gets his fruit, vegetables and milk at the Osborne Village Safeway, various nuts and drinks at the nearby Vita Health Fresh Market and salmon and pickerel at Gimli Fish Market. All three stores are within a short drive of each other, which is no accident. One non-negotiable in his hunt for accommodation is it be close to grocery stores.

And because he's on the road so often, his shopping excursions are frequent, because he's only buying enough food for two or three days at a time.

His breakfasts consist of oatmeal or eggs, lunches of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and dinners of pickerel and quinoa.

And smoothies, lots and lots of smoothies. His Vitamix blender is the focal point of his kitchen, where he blends vegetables such as kale, carrots, broccoli and fruits into nutritious drinks several times a day. He also makes his own peanut butter.

Slater admits to taking some good-natured ribbing from his teammates. (Grant Clitsome, he says, comes close to his diligence with food.) Want to razz him about being a picky eater? He'll shrug you off.

"I just turned 30. I feel really young, I feel energetic. I don't often take naps in the afternoon. I feel younger than I am," he said.

Slater didn't grow up in a household full of vegans. In fact, he admits to having lousy eating habits when he was a kid growing up in Michigan. It wasn't uncommon for him to stop off at McDonald's before the 11/2-hour drive to hockey and then again on the way back.

But then he read some books trumpeting the benefits of organic food. He gave it a shot and when he started to feel better and have more energy, he was hooked.

Slater, however, is human and admits to one weakness -- chips and salsa.

"My favourite type of chips is Doritos. I feel I do a pretty good job on all the other key ingredients, that allows me to eat the Doritos and salsa," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 A2

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