Nutrition

How grocery stores are making Canadians healthier

©iStockphoto.com/Danilin Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Danilin Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

How grocery stores are making Canadians healthier

Getting value out of your grocery store is about more than just saving money. You could be missing out on the great nutritional programming offered by supermarkets across the nation. From grocery tours to cooking classes, food retailers are finding new ways to help you shop—and eat—healthfully.

Here are some of their best offerings:

Take a tour
Are you confused as to which breads are truly whole grain? Do you know how to tell the difference between 100-percent juice and sugar-laden fruit-flavoured drinks? Many grocery chains now offer dietitian-led nutrition tours, which are hands-on opportunities to learn how to shop more intelligently.

A dietitian literally walks you through the store, answering your nutrition questions and introducing you to new food possibilities. Expert advice on reading nutrition labels and on identifying preservatives in processed foods will leave you feeling educated and empowered.

Specialty tours abound, too. In British Columbia, Overwaitea Food Group nutrition tours are available for children and school groups, while Thrifty Foods offers in-store events with registered dietitians and gluten-free food classes via the Canadian Celiac Association.

Look for the icons
Some stores are helping shoppers simplify grocery-buying by adding icons to products that are high in wholesome nutrients and vitamins, but low in sugar or trans fats. The icons are easy to spot and understand.

A study published in the journal Food Policy looked at consumer use of these icons and indicates that they help shift buying habits in the right direction. The study, which looked specifically at the cereal aisle, found that consumers bought nutritious cereals more often because of the icons.

Last year, Metro stores in Ontario and Quebec launched My Healthy Plate, a program that puts "smile" icons on price tags of healthful foods. Good choices get small grins, while great choices get big, wide ones. All foods have been assessed using nutritional criteria developed by registered dieticians.

Learn to cook

The key to a healthy diet is to cook at home and to use whole foods as much as possible. But after you learn how to stock a fridge and pantry with nutritious goods, you'll need to know what to do with them!

Sign up with an in-store cooking school. Popping up in grocery stores across the country, classes are often taught by dietitians, home economists and chefs. Bonus: Store-led sessions are usually less expensive than traditional cooking lessons, and you can shop for new ingredients while you're at it.

There are unique classes for every interest and skill level. Learn how to make couscous in the "All Aboard the Marrakesh Express" class at the Atlantic Superstore in Moncton, NB; try the eight-week Seniors' Healthy Eating Program at Longo's in Ontario; or discover ayurvedic vegetarian cooking through Calgary's Planet Organic class.

Get the App

Some grocery stores have their own apps that help you prepare shopping lists and review recipes. Once you've downloaded those, try these convenient educational apps:

1. Perfect produce
If you bought kohlrabi but have no idea how to prepare it, download Perfect Produce. In addition to 450,000 recipes categorized by main fruit or vegetable, it offers advice on produce selection and storage.

2. Chemical cuisine
You need Chemical Cuisine if you're concerned about the mystery ingredients in your foods. This app features a searchable list of additives rated as "safe," "cut back" or "avoid."

3. Dirty dozen
Are pesticides on your mind? Download Dirty Dozen. It tells you what fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues, so you'll know when to go organic.

For more grocery tips, check out our guide on creating a budget-friendly kitchen.
                                               
This story was originally titled "Cart Smart" in the June 2014 issue.
           
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Nutrition

How grocery stores are making Canadians healthier

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