Finding healthier, inexpensive foods
While holding up a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, Will Chapman asked two Food Lion customers a question: How much salt should a person consume in a day?
An adult with heart disease should consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium or less in a day, he said. And a single can of ravioli has two servings in total, Chapman pointed out, and 750 milligrams of salt in each serving.
“They eat this, this is their salt intake for a whole day,” Chapman said.
A nutrition biochemistry master’s student at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapman volunteered Thursday to co-lead a “food tour” through the aisles of the Food Lion on Chapel Hill Street in Durham.
He and one other co-leader pointed out more cost-effective ways to eat vegetables, ways to identify lower-fat chicken or beef, and demonstrated how to read labels to find the whole wheat in bread loaves.
The tour was part of the Raleigh-based Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s “Cooking Matters at the Store,” which aimed to teach consumers how to cost-effectively buy healthy food. Tours were held in 11 Food Lion stores in the Triangle area.
Customers were also given $10 gift cards to put what they learned in practice. Salisbury-based Food Lion, which is part of the U.S. division of the Belgian company Delhaize Group, made a $10,000 donation to support the program.
“It’s really, really hard to make healthy choices,” Chapman said, explaining that he believes people can think healthy food is too expensive, and it’s also hard to get around confusing marketing gimmicks.
He started the tour by talking about general guidelines for the amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy a person should eat at each meal, as well as the difference between a “serving” and “portion.”
They talked about buying fresh fruits in season to cut down on their price, and compared iceberg lettuce, to other, more vitamin-rich lettuces, such as Romaine.
“The darker the color, the more vitamins inside,” said Justin Plummer, a graduate student studying nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro who co-led Thursday’s tour.
“Spinach, dark green, it’s awesome,” he added. “It’s a super food – cooked or fresh, either way.”
Standing in the canned food aisle, Chapman said canned food is “great way” to eat out-of-season fruits and vegetables, but he also warned that they can be packed with salt. Most of the time, there are low-salt or no-salt options.
It’s s a misconception, he said, that canned and frozen foods have a lower nutrition value. He said that very little of the nutrients are lost using today’s canning and freezing techniques.
“There’s much less of a difference in nutrient content and overall health between fresh and canned fruits and vegetables than most people believe,” he said.
Plummer suggested pouring out the juice that come with canned vegetables, and adding water.
“The juice is for the can, the veggies are for you,” he said.
And in the bread aisle, they examined the label of “Honey Wheat” bread, and found that “whole wheat flour” was the fifth ingredient listed, while “unbleached enriched flour” was first. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance.
Chapman suggested that the customers look for 100 percent whole wheat bread.
“Just because it says ‘whole grain’ on the front doesn’t mean a lot,” Plummer said.
Attending Thursday’s tour was Misty McMillin and Robin Lunsford. Lunsford said she learned a lot, such as about some of the differences between frozen food and canned food.
McMillin said she thinks it’s good to teach people about healthy eating.
“Obesity and poverty go together,” she said.