Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Would an in-store nutritionist help you shop healthier at the grocery store?

I was reading this article the other day and it really got me thinking. The article discusses a study in which a nutritionist was available in the store for a 10 minute in-store counseling sessions with a nutrition educator to understand labels better. It was found that those who had received the counseling had carts with a greater number of fruits and veggies, particularly fruit, green and yellow vegetables.

I think that many people have the intention of eating well, but often times are unsure of what a healthy diet really consist of and the labeling used on a lot of food packaging make it even more confusing to eat healthy. During a trip to the supermarket we are bombarded with claims and labels that elude to items being healthier than they often are (often obscuring what's really in the foods). A few examples of these misleading food labels are as follows:
  • "All Natural" - FDA and USDA have very lenient rules on these claims (although they are working to make them more strict). It may claim "all natural" but still be loaded with high fructose corn syrup, additives, and other not so natural products. Many juices claim natural fruit flavors, but that's nothing more than concentrated fruit extracts that have little to no nutrition benefit.
  • "0 grams of trans fat" - While it's great there is no trans fat, it doesn't mean that it doesn't contain other harmful things such as high levels of saturated fats, high sodium, total fat and so on.
  • "Whole grains" - Being made with whole grains is great, but don't forget to check the sugar content too. Lots of cereals and breads are made with whole grains, however are loaded with sugars and sodium (breads are guilty of having high sodium levels so keep an eye out).
  • "Fat free" - A lot of foods with high sugar contents will label it as fat free to elude to being healthier than they are. While it's great that it's fat free, the sugar content is usually much higher than is recommended and that can lead to adverse health effects.
The above are only a few examples of some labels that can misleading. For those that are trying to eat healthier and lose weight they may believe that they are eating "healthy" based on the foods they buy due to misleading labeling. I think that having a nutrition educator or nutritionist would be a great opportunity for some people to address their food concerns. Not only could they have a better understanding of what these labels mean, but also have a greater understanding of what a healthy diet consist of and what these labels may also be covering up. 

Earlier this year, I planned a program during my internship called Know Your Nutrition. This program was set up on campus to allow students an opportunity for a mini-assessment with a registered dietitian (Kati Mora from Around the Plate). During the evaluation we found that many students found this to be an enlightening and educational experience in which they were able to gain much knowledge and answer many questions that they had and something that they wished would be available more often (or even on a regular basis). Incorporating something like this in a large scale setting, such as grocery stores, could have a great effect in creating awareness and educating consumers on the importance of a healthy diet to their and their families long term health. 

Do you think that you would utilize a program such as in-store nutritionist/dietitian sessions? 

2 comments:

  1. You're completely right. Many foods may say "whole grain" or something, but then their number one ingredient is actually high fructose corn syrup. So, it's very misleading. It is not easy to eat healthy with all those unhealthy foods calling out our name when we're shopping at the grocery store, but it's not hard to know what's good for you and what's not. Fruits and vegetables always win, and organic wins above that because then you're not eating 36 different pesticides as you bite into an apple!

    ~Lisha

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    1. You've got that right! HFCS is in everything!! It drives me crazy because I try to avoid it as much as I can. I just wish that companies would make it easier for consumers to attempt to eat healthy. I think some people honestly think that they are because they have been so mislead by marketing. When all else fails: stick to fruits and veggies and the less ingredients, usually the better.

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