An Expert Way to Shop

Dietitians will be on staff at a local market this weekend to help families shop for food the right way

Oct 11, 2012

For many families, a weekly trip to the grocery store is routine and unimaginative. The list is made, the food is bought and pretty soon the car is packed with bags to go back home. The new-age shopper’s perspective is all about simplicity. Buying Doritos is easier than making garden-fresh salsa. A 12-pack of soda is more convenient than fresh-squeezed juice. And almost everything is cheaper than items from the posh and exclusive organic section. Besides, kids are way too picky nowadays. The goal isn’t so much about finding the healthiest choices as it is about getting in and out as quickly as possible.

For the health professionals at the Dean Clinic in Madison, this way of thinking is dangerously unhealthy and simply unacceptable.

The “Shop With A Dietitian” event at Miller & Sons Supermarket in Verona is meant to change all this by educating adults, children and families about healthy food choices. Registered dietitians will be placed throughout each section of the market (meats, grains and produce) and will provide families with one-on-one professional advice on how to shop smarter and cook better, more nutritious meals that adults and kids will love. The event, presented by partners WISC-TV (Madison Magazine's media partner), Dean Clinic and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, will offer free tips and unique shopping strategies for those looking to stock their fridge with healthier meal options. 

“Shop With A Dietitian” highlights Dean Clinic’s “Time for Kids” series, an important project that helps raise awareness about childhood obesity. Each shopper will also receive kid-friendly recipe cards sent in by children from the Madison community.

Toni Sterry, one of three dietitians planning on attending the event, says there are three things families should pay particular attention to while shopping.

“Lean proteins, dairy, whole grains—these are some things to be looking for, especially when you are reading the labels,” Sterry says. “You can’t always buy in to the front of the packages. People actually need to look.”

Learning how to read food labels properly is an important skill for shoppers to adopt. Sterry says food companies can be deceptive and will try to draw shoppers in. Her advice: don’t fall for it.

“Something will say it’s a great source of fiber and will be placed on the display next to other things with fiber in them. Unless you know how to decode the labels, you won’t know for sure,” she says.

Sterry says each dietitian will help families strategically maneuver through the store. A great strategy is to shop the perimeters. The inner aisles contain many processed, pre-packaged foods that are high in fat and sodium. Although many families don’t believe healthy eating and a small budget go hand in hand, Sterry doesn’t want them to be discouraged. They key, she says, is to have a balanced budget. Her pointers on what to buy and when will help keep families’ waistlines small and their wallets fat.

“Try to buy produce when it’s in season because it’s much cheaper that way,” Sterry says. “When things aren’t in season, stock up your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables. They are still nutritious and will last you a lot longer.”

Last but certainly not least, Sterry cites farmers’ markets as a fantastic way to shop healthy and support Wisconsin farmers. Families can buy fresh, locally grown produce, educate kids about healthy eating and get some great exercise at the same time. The Dane County Farmers’ Market, the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the U.S., is a great activity for families on the weekends.

“The markets are not only more affordable for people, but farmers have a more natural approach to growing produce,” Sterry says. “Supporting them means better food for you.”

Sterry, who works with families on their weight management and healthy lifestyle choices, says her goal is not to force people to become healthy eaters. Instead, she hopes she can simply get others to rethink their unhealthy eating habits.

“My job is to educate them and give families the tools they need to succeed. They already have some of the tools. I want to reinforce what they already know and put it into full practice.”

“Shop With a Dietitian” will take place this Saturday, October 13, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Miller & Sons Supermarket in Verona, millerandsonssupermarket.net

Photo courtesy of Kim Sveum of Dean Clinic. 

Shelby Lewis is an editorial intern for Madison Magazine.

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