BERLIN – Ever wondered about the difference between whole grain and whole wheat? Which type of lettuce to buy? How to read a nutrition label?
If a trip to the grocery store brings questions to mind, the Worcester County Health Department can help. Throughout the year, the department’s dietician offers free grocery store tours to turn customers into health savvy shoppers. She started this week’s visit to the Super Walmart in Pocomoke City in the produce section.
“Concentrate on picking up as many colors as you can,” dietician Kathy Wool told a group of Salisbury University students. “Different colored vegetables provide different nutrients.”
From there, Wool led her eager followers to the bread aisle. There, she extolled the benefits of whole wheat.
“A good high fiber bread should have two to three grams of fiber per slice,” she said, pointing to the fact that just because a bread advertised whole grains didn’t necessarily mean it was a good source of fiber. “Look for 100 percent whole wheat.”
And if you don’t like whole wheat?
“Think about where else you can get fiber,” Wool said.
In the salad dressing aisle, Wool reminded her audience that moderation was key. What good is a healthy salad if you cover it in globs of fatty dressing?
“You’ve got to look at the type of dressing you’re buying and how much you use,” she said, pointing to the fact that the serving size indicated on the bottle was less than people realized.
Wool moved from salad dressing to spaghetti sauce. A primary concern there, she said, was the amount of sugar that sauces generally included. She said it was important to take that into account because, as with salad dressing, people tended to consume more than a single serving.
In the soup section, Wool asked if her shoppers if they knew what to be wary of with canned soup. She praised the responses of sodium she received, but told them switching to a soup labeled “light” didn’t necessarily make it healthy.
“You’ve got to be careful when you look at the word light,” she said. “What is light in it?”
She again stressed the important of actually turning the can around to see the nutrition label. There, she recommended shoppers follow the 5-20 rule. Choose a product with a daily value of 5 percent or less of the nutrients you want to get less of, such as saturated fat. Select products with a daily value of 20 percent or more of the nutrients you want to get more of, such as Vitamin C.
“A lot of label reading is looking at serving size and nutrients,” she said.
As with soups, Wool said sodium proved to be a problem with canned vegetables. Because budget constraints make them a staple for many families, she recommended shoppers rinse off the vegetables once they opened the can to remove excess sodium. She also suggested purchasing the canned vegetables that were touted as having less sodium.
Patrick Wetzelberger, a Salisbury University student on the tour, said it was opening his eyes to how important it was to turn a product over and read its nutrition label.
“I’m surprised how sneaky companies are,” he said. “I didn’t think labels were so misleading.”
Moving to the dairy section, Wool reminded shoppers that sour cream and cream cheese were not good sources of nutrients and pointed them toward milk. She said that low fat milks, such as 1 percent and 2 percent, had just as much calcium as whole milk.
With a final pass of the meat and prepared food section, Wool outlined the benefits of lean meats—she recommended 93/7—and suggested ground turkey as a healthy alternative.
Pointing to a display of frozen chicken nuggets, she told shoppers they were better off avoiding pre-prepared foods when they could.
“The easier it is to eat the worse it is for you,” she said.
Wool encourages anyone interested in improving their diet to attend one of the health department’s grocery store tours. Several are scheduled each quarter, with the next being Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the Food Lion in Berlin at 10 a.m.
For more information, call 410-632-0056.