The question “What’s for dinner?” to leave you bewildered? Does deciphering nutrition labels leave you cross-eyed? Do you just want to eat healthier?
There’s help in the form of free 60-minute grocery store tours with a registered dietitian guiding you through the aisles, giving advice on what to put in your cart and what to avoid. Your tour guide will also offer suggestions on how to turn these healthier grocery purchases into your next family dinner.
When we learned about these tours, presented by Baton Rouge General Medical Center and hosted by three Rousseau areas, we signed up. One of Baton Rouge Community Health and Wellness Center’s dietitians, Christine West, who is also a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, showed us around Rouse’s Juban Crossing location.
Note that space is limited to about 10 participants per tour and registration is required at https://www.brgeneral.org/ (click on “Calendar of Events”). See the accompanying list of upcoming tour dates and venues.
At the starting point of the tour, the guide will inquire about any health issues participants may be living with, then emphasize correlating food choices along the route.
Here are some highlights of what we learned:
THINK COLOR: In addition to the recommendation of three to four different vegetables in your diet each day, it is important to have vegetables of different shades, as they provide you with different sets of nutrients. For example, red varieties — including red onions, tomatoes and beets — are the most heart-protective
EAT YOUR SPINACH: It is among the anti-inflammatory leafy vegetables and is universal, i.e. you don’t have to be Popeye. “Put it in a smoothie. You can put it in soup. You can throw it in spaghetti sauce,” West says, adding that including spinach in a smoothie doesn’t really change the flavor.
SPEAKING OF GREENS: Generally, the darker and leafier the vegetables, the more nutrients they contain. Yes, you still get a lot of great nutrients from romaine lettuce, but that iceberg, fuhgettaboutit.
FOR THIS INFLAMMATION: This is a very important question, advises West, because all disease is rooted in a state of inflammation. “When we nourish ourselves to reduce this inflammation, reduce disease progression and disease risk, in the short term we’ll have more energy, less brain fog, less gut health issues and even improved weight loss.” , she says.
THE GREAT SEPARATION: A simple rule of thumb is that half your plate at lunch and dinner should be full of non-starchy vegetables. This does two things: it helps keep your calories and carbs in check, and it also increases your nutrient intake.
SALAD SOLUTIONS: If you do not have time to chop all the components, take products such as grated carrots to speed up the preparation time. Salad dressings, meanwhile, are tricky toppings. Don’t just read the front of the package, turn it over and check the ingredients list. Avoid anti-inflammatory oils like soybean and canola oil, and if sugar is the first ingredient, put it back on the shelf.
EATING ON THE GO: Consider raw vegetables, including celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet peppers. Add interest with salsa, guacamole and hummus as dips.
Consider Cale: Yes, those chewy, bitter things in the bags. West says the key to learning to love it is to bake it in the oven until it’s crispy like a potato chip. Season and add a little olive oil and you’re done: a healthy side dish or snack. The same goes for Brussels sprouts (good for the liver). If you don’t like them, bake them. You will be surprised.
THE MISUNDERSTANDED SPUD: Although they have carbs, potatoes are real food (one ingredient, no additives or preservatives), don’t be carb phobic, be carb conscious. They are suitable as a side dish, just be careful with the portion size and, of course, do not fry them. Fun fact: Sweet potatoes have the lowest glycemic (blood sugar) values; red potatoes are moderate; and rust highest.
DON’T FORGET THE FRUITS: Even if you have blood sugar issues, you should still eat two fruits a day because of the nutrients they pack, according to West. And eat the peel when it’s edible, as that’s where all the fiber is hidden. Eating fresh or frozen fruit is better than drinking a store-bought fruit smoothie, as it can be too much of a good thing at once in terms of sugar and calories.
MAKE IT AT HOME: When you mix your own smoothies, you can adjust the portions and thus monitor the calories and carbohydrates. If it’s a large banana, use half of it; limit grapes to 15 or more; choose medium-sized apples, not giant ones. Helpful tip: When fruit is on sale, buy in bulk, slice and freeze. When it’s time for a smoothie, they’re ready and you won’t even need ice.
PROTEIN ON YOUR PLATE: Protein intake promotes bone health, muscle mass and stable blood sugar levels. Fresh, lean cuts of beef and pork are best (look for selections with “fillet” in the title). Marinate meats at home, as those that are pre-marinated usually contain extra sodium and additives. When debating ground beef vs. ground turkey, go with what you like. As long as beef has a low fat ratio (93/7 is best), don’t worry about settling for that pale turkey.
(Note: All tours start at 10am)
Ruse Bluebonnet Market, 7580 Bluebonnet Blvd. — August 10, September 14, October 12, November 9 and December 14
Rouses Market Juban Crossing, 10130 Crossing Way, Suite 300, Denham Springs — August 17, September 21, October 19, November 16 and December 21
Rouses Market Zachary, 2300 Church St., Building 7, Zachary — Aug. 3, Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Dec. 7