Florence’s Biggest Loser contestants met Monday evening for a third time with registered dietitian Lindsay Fraser for a healthy Grocery Store 101 event.
The event, which took place at the Piggly Wiggly at Florence Mall, was created to help educate the contestants on how to determine which products best fit their healthy nutritional needs when shopping for groceries.
“Understanding what products to purchase and where to find them when shopping is really important for a healthy diet,” Fraser said. “For example, home cooking is extremely beneficial, but you have to know what to stock your kitchen with and what to buy for those meals before you can start.”
One of the main focuses of the event for the contestants was learning how to read and understand a nutrition label. Fraser provided each contestant with an example nutrition label as well as guidelines on what numbers the contestants should look for when comparing calories or protein. Some of the guidelines provided included looking for products with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, trying to stay below 200 mg of sodium for a side dish and 600 mg or less of sodium for a main dish and avoiding products that contained saturated and trans fats.
Fraser also stressed to the contestants the importance of reading the ingredient lists for each product. Products that are not as nutritionally beneficial generally have very long ingredient lists and contain ingredients that aren’t familiar.
“Just because a product has words like ‘natural’ or ‘lite’ on the package does not mean that is the best option,” Fraser said. “You really need to be mindful of how companies market their products and always check the nutrition label so you can avoid buying things that appear healthy but really aren’t.”
Another focus of the event was learning what to look for and avoid when shopping in common sections of a grocery store.
For the meat section, Fraser advised the contestants to avoid highly processed meats such as bologna and pepperoni and instead purchase turkey or roast beef.
In the dairy section, Fraser provided tips that helped contestants not only save calories but also save money by buying plain yogurts (especially Greek or Icelandic styles, which are higher in protein) and adding your own fruit.
For the produce section, Fraser told the contestants to try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. If fresh is not an option, frozen produce without seasoning and sauces already added would be the second-best option. If contestants have to use a canned product, they should pour the contents into a colander and rinse twice with water to remove excess salt and sugar.
Once the contestants understood what to look for when shopping healthy, they were placed into teams and asked to find a healthy product and a not-so-healthy product in typical shopping categories such as pasta sauce, salad dressing and bread.
When the contestants finished finding their products, they were then asked to share their products with the group and use their new healthy shopping knowledge to explain why one product was healthier than the other.
Many of the contestants compared the calorie, carbohydrate and sugar numbers on each product’s nutrition label when determining which product was the healthier choice. For some of the products, such as breakfast cereal, the calorie and carbohydrate numbers would be similar, so the contestants would compare ingredients. Not surprisingly, ingredients of the not-so-healthy options often started with sugar while the healthy option’s ingredient list would start with whole-wheat flour or oats.
Along with selecting healthy and nonhealthy products, the contestants also were asked to go through the produce section and bring back one vegetable or fruit they had never tried before to share with the group. Some of the fruits and vegetables selected included parsnips, rutabagas, apple pears and beets.
By the end of the event, the contestants were surprised to learn how cautious they needed to be while shopping.
“I didn’t realize how tricky nutrition labels on certain products could be,” contestant Bill Gilmer said. “Some products will have smaller serving sizes than you would think, or similar products will have different serving sizes. You end up having to do a lot of math to make sure you’re getting what you want.”
The final nutrition event of the 2018 Florence’s Biggest Loser competition will be a healthy cooking demonstration led by Fraser and sponsored by Ovis Hill Farm on March 12.