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August 29, 2014

Grocery Shopping for Improved Health

By Suzy Finn, YPW Executive Director

Suzy Finn - YPW Executive Director

Meet Emily. Emily is a YPW member who maintains an active, fit lifestyle. She plays sand volleyball and softball, golfs, and runs. But she wanted to learn more about how to increase her health quotient with nutritious eating.

At the YPW Lunch & Learn in May, Emily learned about the Greater Wichita YMCA’s new offering of Personalized Grocery Store Tours. A couple of weeks later, Emily met the Y’s Healthy Eating Director, Tammi, for a tour of Dillon’s at Central & Rock, and they let me tag along to share some notes with our members.

The tour started with Emily and Tammi reviewing a worksheet Emily had filled out ahead of time regarding her eating habits, family health history, and goals for the tour. Once they covered that, the tour started with a focus on the goals of buying groceries within a budget and exploring quick snack and meal ideas.

YPW Member Emily and YMCA Healthy Eating Director Tammi start a Personalized Grocery Tour by talking about history and goals.

YPW Member Emily and YMCA Healthy Eating Director Tammi start a Personalized Grocery Tour by talking about history and goals.

 

Some of the tips Tammi shared that can help everyone on a budget or a healthy eating plan included the following:

Start your shopping trip in the fresh fruits and veggies section: When you get home, separate your fruits and veggies into single-serving bags or cut them up as necessary to have quick snacks readily available.

  • On a budget? Look at how many ounces you’re getting for the amount you’re spending. For example, you could pay $5 for 6 ounces of blackberries or $1.88 for 8 ounces of strawberries. Strawberries win!
  • Have a sweet tooth? Bake your fruit for a healthy, tasty dessert. Try stuffing a cored apple with brown sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal before baking.
  • Keep your fruit fresh: Buy a variety of fruit at various stages of ripeness so that you have some items you can eat right away and others that can take a few days to ripen. If it’s about to go bad despite your best efforts, dice up the fruit or vegetable and freeze it to use in smoothies or soups later.
Tammi explains how to tell the level of ripeness for a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Tammi explains how to tell the level of ripeness for a variety of fruits and vegetables.

 

  • Mix up the colors: The colors of fruits and veggies indicate the nutrients and vitamins in them. For a balanced diet, try to mix in as many different colors as possible.
  • Try new things: Check out the salad bar to try small portions of a new fruit or vegetable before spending money on buying a whole bag or item.

Add some healthy fat to your diet: Mono and polyunsaturated fats are good for you as long as you watch the portion size! Try mixing half salted/half unsalted nuts to cut down on the sodium while maintaining the taste. Also, give pistachios a try for a less calorie-dense nut and a great snack.

Grab & go meal ideas: Recognizing that a lot of young professionals are pressed for time, Tammi added a couple of quick meal ideas.

  • Buy bagged chicken: you can use this to make into several grab & go meals, especially if you take the skin off.
  • Use the deli/seafood counter: Always wanted to try cooked salmon but not sure how to cook it? Ask the deli counter to cook it for you while you do the rest of your shopping.

Eat healthy grains: Look for the first ingredient in a carb substance (bread, pita wraps, etc.) to say “Whole Wheat Flour,” NOT “Enriched Wheat Flour.” The Whole Wheat is going to give you more of the nutrients.

Tammi shows Emily where to find the right kind of whole wheat for breads and wraps.

Tammi shows Emily where to find the right kind of whole wheat for breads and wraps.

 

How much is too much? Use the percent Daily Value (%DV) as a guide. If the number is too high for one serving, find something else.

For two similar items, look closely at the nutrition facts to make sure you're getting the most "bang" for your calorie "bucks."

For two similar items, look closely at the nutrition facts to make sure you’re getting the most “bang” for your calorie “bucks.”

 

The overall advice that Tammi would give to someone looking to eat healthier is to always ask yourself, “What am I getting for my calories?” Just because something is “low calorie,” “low fat,” or comes in a convenient calorie-pack size does not mean it’s going to help you stay full, give you energy, or contribute to your overall health goals.

Additional resources:

ChooseMyPlate: For tips on how to create a balanced plate and other healthy eating guidelines

Fruits and Veggies More Matters: For tips on cooking with and eating more fruits and vegetables

Calorie Tracking: Sites and apps like MyFitnessPal and Calorie King can help you manage your calorie intake for weight-loss goals.

YMCA Nutrition Programs: To learn more about personalized grocery tours and other programs the YMCA offers as part of its focus on nutrition

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