Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nutritionist teaches how to shop for heart health


These days, shopping in the grocery store is daunting. Even the experienced shopper is overwhelmed by countless aisles and perplexed by decisions such as whether or not to buy organic. And perhaps most difficult, today’s shoppers increasingly need to find the best deal.

Armed with tips to tackle shopping, nutritionists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center are teaching patients how to get the most out of the grocery store. In a classroom-style format, complete with a whiteboard and show-and-tell, Deborah Krivitsky, MS, RD, LDN gives patients the tools they need to be smart and healthy shoppers.

Most attendees see physicians and nurse practitioners from the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center, a specialized clinical program designed to help patients reduce their risk for developing heart disease. Just one treatment approach, the nutrition class encourages making dietary changes to reduce risk.

From purchasing to reading labels

The supermarket education class is one part of a series in which Krivitsky spends every week discussing new nutritional topics. These topics range from eating healthy while dining out to reading nutrition labels. Appropriately named "Supermarket Smarts," patients learn how to make a shopping list, when to buy organic and how to manage the high cost of food. They discuss their favorite foods and offer suggestions on what to purchase. Best of all, they snack on samples of mustard dip, pretzel slims, crackers and other foods that Krivitsky recommends.

Richard Rotnem, a class participant and patient at the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center, admits that because he isn’t an experienced shopper, he learned quite a bit about the supermarket.

"We spend a lot of time curing problems that have happened, and this is a preventive, improvement situation," says Rotnem. "It’s an opportunity to learn from people who know a lot more than we do."

The top five for shoppers

In only one hour, Krivitsky shares a wealth of information. When asked to provide a "top five" of shopping tips, she recommended the following:

  • Never visit the supermarket hungry, and always go armed with a list to focus your shopping.
  • The majority of your products (about 80 percent) should be from the periphery of the market, while 20 percent should be from the middle aisles. This is to encourage purchasing fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats.
  • Choose foods that are low fat (never trans fat), high fiber, whole grain and low sodium.
  • Have a couple of brands in your head prior to shopping so you can quickly pick up what you need.
  • Search for coupons both online and in your local paper. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive and can actually be more economical.

She explains that participants appreciate the interactive aspect of her class, specifically trying new foods and finding brands that are both healthy and enjoyable. "They get to see how to apply what is presented here and then take it home," explains Krivitsky.

Learn more

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Center
Heart Attack Primary Prevention
Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
Cardiac Metabolic Syndrome Program

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