MARSHALL - They were scanning the aisles, reading food labels and comparing prices. But the group of women at the Marshall Hy-Vee on Wednesday afternoon weren't on a shopping trip. It was a learning experience.
"It's about getting the most healthy food for your money," said Darlyce Rangaard, community nutrition educator with the University of Minnesota Extension in Lyon County.
The tour of the supermarket was part of a cooking and nutrition class, called Simply Good Cooking, that Rangaard has been teaching in partnership with Western Community Action.
Photo by Deb Gau
Dietician Katie Wilhelmi, at far right, talked about the nutritional benefits of fresh and whole-grain breads with area residents, including Becca Rice, Ashley Lavoie and Extension nutrition educator Darlyce Rangaard. Rangaard was teaching a class on healthy and economical cooking.
"It's been a great group. We've been doing some healthy cooking," Rangaard said of the class. Besides learning how to make healthy recipes at home, class participants talked with registered dietician Katie Wilhelmi for shopping tips.
Finding examples of healthy food choices was one part of the tour. Wilhelmi encouraged class members to get plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables in their diet.
"You want to try and get as many different colored fruits and vegetables as you can. Each of those different colors has different vitamins," she said, as the class went through the produce section. However, Wilhelmi said, fruits and veggies don't have to be fresh to be good for you. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be more economical. Canned fruits can also be an inexpensive healthy food, she said - provided they're not too sugary. Fruits canned in juice have less sugar than ones canned in heavy syrup.
Wilhelmi said one possible guide to making healthier food choices at the supermarket is a rating scale called the NuVal system. The system, developed by Yale medical and nutrition experts, gives foods a number rating out of 100, based on different aspects of their nutritional value, like fat, sodium and fiber content. The higher the number, the healthier a food is. Wilhelmi said Hy-Vee is one of several supermarket chains that put NuVal ratings on the price signs for food, where customers can easily see them.
Rangaard and Wilhelmi said it was equally important to take the value of foods at the supermarket into account. Wilhelmi warned that items like prepackaged meals or single-serving foods don't always have the best value. For example, a box of instant rice gives more servings and has less sodium than a packaged meal with rice.
"With individual portions, you're really paying for packaging," Wilhelmi said.
It also helps to pay attention to sales and food prices, said class member member Denise Timmerman. Looking at the bottles of milk in the dairy section, Timmerman pointed out that two half-gallon bottles of milk were cheaper than a full gallon that day.
Class members said they were having fun with the program, as well as getting some good information out of it.
"It's been very helpful. I've learned how to put vegetables into other foods so that the kids will eat it," Ashley Lavoie said.
Class member Kim Muehlbauer said some suggestions, like freezing food at home, were helpful for making grocery money go farther.
"You can just take out what you need," she said, and save the rest for a future meal.