Is the question “What’s for dinner?” leave you baffled? Does deciphering nutrition labels make you squint? Just want to eat healthier?
There’s help in the form of free 60-minute grocery store tours with a registered nutritionist to guide you through the aisles and offer advice on what to put in your shopping cart and what to avoid. Your guide will also offer suggestions on how to turn those healthier grocery purchases into your next family dinner.
When we heard about these tours, offered by Baton Rouge General Medical Center and hosted by three rousses in the area, we signed up. One of the Baton Rouge General Health and Wellness Center’s Nutritionists, Kristin West, who is also a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, gave us a tour of Rouse’s Juban Crossing site.
Note that seating is limited to approximately 10 people per tour and registration is required at https://www.brgeneral.org/ (click on “Calendar of Events”). See accompanying list of upcoming tour dates and locations.
At the tour start point, the guide will inquire about any specific health issues participants may be living with, then emphasize appropriate food choices along the route.
Here are some highlights of what we learned:
THINKING COLOR: In addition to recommending three to four different vegetables in your daily diet, it’s important to have different shades of vegetables as they will provide you with different nutrients. For example, red varieties — including red onions, tomatoes, and beets — are the most heart-protecting
EAT YOUR SPINACH: It’s one of the anti-inflammatory leafy greens and has many uses, meaning you don’t have to be Popeye. “Put it in a smoothie. You can put it in a soup. You can throw it in your spaghetti sauce,” says West, adding that adding spinach to a smoothie doesn’t really change the flavor.
Speaking of green: Typically, the darker and leafier the green means the more nutrients it contains. Yes, you’re still getting a lot of great nutrients from romaine lettuce, but this iceberg, fuhgettaboutit.
ABOUT THIS INFLAMMATION: It’s a very relevant topic, West advises, because all diseases are rooted in a state of inflammation. “When we empower ourselves to reduce this inflammation, reduce disease progression, and reduce disease risk, we have more energy, less brain fog, fewer gut health issues, and even improved weight loss in the short term,” she says.
THE BIG DIVISION: A simple rule of thumb is that half your plate at lunch and dinner should be loaded with non-starchy vegetables. This does two things: it helps keep your calories and carbs under control, and it also increases your nutrient absorption.
SALAD SOLUTIONS: If you don’t have time to chop up all the components, grab items like shredded carrots to speed up prep time. Salad dressings, on the other hand, are tricky toppings. Don’t just read the front of the pack, turn it over and look at the ingredient list. Avoid flammable oils like soybean and canola, and if sugar is the first ingredient, put it back on the shelf.
SNACKING ON THE GO: Think raw vegetables, including celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and bell peppers. Add interest with salsa, guacamole, and hummus as dips.
CONSIDER KALE: Yes, the tough, bitter stuff in the bags. West says the key to learning to love is to roast it in the oven until it’s as crisp as potato chips. Season and add some olive oil, and voilà: a healthy side dish or snack. The same goes for Brussels sprouts (good for the liver). If you don’t like them, roast them. You’ll be surprised.
THE MISUNDERSTOOD SPUD: Although they contain carbs, potatoes are a real food (one ingredient, no additives or preservatives), don’t be carb phobic, be carb conscious. They’re fine as a side dish, just watch the portion size and of course don’t fry them. Fun Fact: Sweet potatoes are the lowest among potatoes in terms of glycemic (blood sugar) counts; red potatoes are moderate; and red-brown highest.
DON’T FORGET FRUIT: Even if you’re struggling with blood sugar issues, West says you should still eat two fruits a day for the nutrients you get. And eat the peel when it’s edible, as that’s where all the fiber is hiding. Eating fresh or frozen fruit is better than drinking a store-bought fruit smoothie, as it can be overkill in terms of sugar and calories.
MAKE IT AT HOME: When you blend your own smoothies, you can regulate portions to keep track of calories and carbs. If it’s a large banana, use half of it; limit bunches to about 15; Choose medium-sized apples, not the huge ones. Helpful Tip: When fruit is on sale, buy in bulk, slice, and freeze. When it’s time for smoothies, they’re ready and you don’t even need ice.
PROTEIN ON YOUR PLATE: Protein intake promotes bone health, muscle mass and stable blood sugar levels. Fresh, leaner cuts of beef and pork are best (look for choices with “loin” in the title). Marinate meat at home, as pre-marinated meat usually contains extra sodium and additives. When debating ground beef or ground turkey, choose what you like. As long as the beef is low fat ratio (93/7 is best), don’t worry if you settle for this light turkey.
(Note: All tours start at 10am)
Rouses Market Bluebonnet, 7580 Bluebonnet Blvd. – Aug 10, Sept 14, Oct 12, Nov 9 and Dec 14
Rouses Market Juban Crossing, 10130 Crossing Way, Suite 300, Denham Springs – Aug 17, Sept 21, Oct 19, Nov 16 and Dec 21
Rouses Market Zachary, 2300 Church St., Building 7, Zachary – Aug 3, Sept 7, Oct 5, Nov 2 and Dec 7