Shopping for groceries and nutritional tips with SCCMHA dieticians

A person buying a fruit at a marketDescription automatically generatedEvery Wednesday, Dieticians Tricia Ruth and Jessica Huber have been taking consumers served by SCCMHA on grocery shopping trips to learn how to look for healthier dietary options.

Highlighting every section of the store and providing nutritional information, Tricia and Jessica find ways to help consumers improve their health, while also being able to manage a budget with their groceries.

In January and February, consumers went to Walmart and Kroger, but this March, consumers found themselves at Aldi. Tricia says the reason for the changes in location is to get a fuller view of what different stores offer, but also to appeal to consumers who are closer to the different stores.

“It helps them to know what their stores carry for when they go on their own personal shopping trips,” Tricia said.

One of the big lessons the dieticians find themselves teaching is how to decipher the nutritional labels on food.

“Most people can read it, but they don’t know how to measure certain items when it comes to preparing their meals,” Tricia said. “They’re very surprised when we tell them how much sodium or sugars are in some of these items.”

The dieticians also use a program called MyPlate which helps with creating well-balanced portions, measuring out how much of each specific food group the average person should have with each meal.

“For example, we encourage 5-6.5 ounces of protein,” Tricia said. “Showing consumers the size of a protein serving ­– or other food group – helps them visualize and learn how to prepare their meals.”

Tricia brought the idea to take consumers grocery shopping from a similar venture during her time working with United Dairy, however she never got to bring it to the people she serves.

“It’s different and fun, being able to teach them these facts directly to consumers,” Tricia said. “It’s rewarding to see how much they get out of it.”

Specifically, Tricia mentioned stories of consumers who tell her things such as them giving up Mountain Dew because of the high sugar content or thinking twice about the bag of Cheetos with lunch due to the excessive amount of sodium.

“It lets me know that we’re making a change,” Tricia said. “It’s good to give back and to see them have that ‘a-ha’ moment.”

However, they never fully discourage the “less than healthy” foods from the consumers. Instead, they are referred to as ‘sometimes foods.’

“We eat for pleasure sometimes, so we encourage them to have those items, but to not make it part of their regular diet,” Tricia said.

In the weekly trips to the store, Tricia has seen more lessons coming from not just her.

“They learn from us, but they really learn from each other,” Tricia said about the consumers. “Everyone has different experiences in the way they do things.”