Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 18, 2013

Grocery store tours teach healthy buying habits

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — Eating healthy starts at the grocery store.

“No matter what you are cooking or preparing at home, it all starts at the grocery store. If you are making poor choices there, it is not going to get any better when you get home,” said Melanie Fleming, a King’s Daughters Medical Center dietitian.

To teach people how to better load their grocery carts with nutritious food, Fleming will lead a series of grocery store tours in March as a community outreach project of the hospital.

“Eating well is something we all struggle with. I think we sometimes make it more complicated than it should be,” Fleming said.

“The grocery store is the center where all the choices are made. If we can get in there and teach (the public) how to bring good foods into their home, they are going to be able to do better eating on their own.”

Fleming said one of her goals is to help people see they can eat well on a budget.

“The financial aspects of it are so important to people. A lot of folks feel that they can’t eat well because it does cost a little more. I’m hoping to teach people they can eat well on their budget,” she said.   

Fleming typically works with diabetes patients at KDMC’s Diabetes Care Center, where she crafts specialized individual meal plans tailored to their likes, dislikes and dietary needs.  The grocery store tours are aimed at all members of the community who want to shop and eat healthier.

“The information we will be giving anybody can use, whether they are on a special diet or not,” Fleming said. “It’s a very broad variety of topics that we will cover.”

Fleming said she will teach participants how to shop seasonally, how to make produce selections and when it’s best to buy organic food. The tour will also focus extensively on reading and understanding food labels and nutrition information.

“The marketing and the way they are so misleading with some of the label claims, we will address that,” she said, advising shoppers to turn packages over and look at the ingredients.

“If anyone has questions specific to their own dietary needs, we can address that as well at the end of the tour,” Fleming said.

For those who are unable to attend a tour, Fleming offers some basic advice. “In a nutshell, try to get fresh. The less packaged foods are, the better off you are going to be. Think about each food group and making the best choice from each group.”

For fruits and vegetables, go fresh if possible, but frozen or canned are fine — without sauces and syrups, she said.

“With dairy, we always want to go low fat or fat free for yogurt, milk and cheeses. For the grains, always 100 percent whole.”

Proteins should be lean, including turkey, chicken and fish. And don’t forget about alternative proteins such as beans, nuts, eggs, peanut butter and tofu.

“These are excellent choices,” Fleming said.

Tours will last approximately an hour, and based on response to the initial event may be offered again in the future, she said.

The tours are free and will take place March 5 at Kroger in Ashland. Times are 10 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. Space is limited to seven participants for each group.

RSVP to Fleming at (606) 408-1548. Participants are asked to meet 10 minutes prior to start time at the store entrance on the produce side.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.