Healthy Checkout Aisle opens at Los Primos market

Aug. 28, 2013 @ 11:21 AM

Durham health advocates are excited about what the new Healthy Checkout Aisle at Los Primos Supermarket on Alston Avenue will mean for local residents. Customers who choose the Healthy Checkout Aisle will only see fruit, nuts, water and other healthy options instead of the traditional candy, potato chips and other less healthy food while checking out. The project was a collaborative effort between the Durham County Department of Public Health, the Partnership for a Healthy Durham, East Durham Children’s Initiative and Los Primos Supermarket.  
Healthy Checkout Aisles are becoming a tool public health officials are using throughout the country to combat the obesity epidemic. These aisles offer healthy choices for last-minute purchases and have the added benefit of reducing whining (no candy!).
How will a checkout aisle help in the fight against obesity, though? It seems like such a small change. Scientists and public health officials argue that such small changes, like this one, add up to make a big impact. 
Our food environment has changed drastically in the past 50 years. We used to see food only in grocery stores and maybe we would get a lollipop at the bank. Now we now have to make choices about food in gas stations, clothing stores, craft stores and every building that has vending machines. 
Research by psychologist Roy Baumeister of Florida State University shows that seeing all this food is hurting our waistlines. Even if we do not realize it, every time we see food we have to make a decision whether or not to eat it. All these decisions exhaust our brains, causing what is called decision fatigue.  We may eventually run out of willpower.    
Health advocates are working to create positive environmental changes to reverse this trend. With the new child nutrition guidelines, school lunches are getting healthier. Many “kid’s meals” at restaurants now offer low-fat milk and fruit. New farmers markets are popping up everywhere and now checkout aisles are offering healthier options. 
A recent study out of the Centers for Disease Control shows that in many states, childhood obesity rates are leveling off and even decreasing. These small changes are no doubt contributing to the decrease in obesity rates. However, North Carolina child obesity has not decreased; we need to continue working. Here are several more ideas to encourage healthier eating:
• Start your day with a healthy breakfast and try to eat again before you get too hungry.  It is harder to make healthy choices when you are overly hungry.   
• Try to limit how often you see food.  Get candy off desks and counters.  
• Replace cookie jars with fruit bowls. 
• Put your less healthy snacks in the back of your cupboard where you do not see them every time you open the door. 
• Try not to look at billboards and commercials that advertize food. 
• Shop at stores where you are not tempted by candy and chips every time you checkout. 
The fewer times you have to make a food decision, the more energy you will have to make healthy decisions. The Durham County Department of Public Health and Partnership for a Healthy Durham congratulates Los Primos Supermarket on its leadership and hopes that many other stores join this campaign. 
The Partnership for a Healthy Durham (www.healthydurham.org) is a coalition of local agencies and communities with the goal of collaboratively improving the physical, mental, and social health and well-being of Durham’s residents.