Raise your hand if you tend to buy the same groceries week after week. I see a lot of hands out there! Mine too. So what if you’re determined to eat healthier? How do you get more nutritious foods into your cart and know what to do with them when you bring them home? Last month I talked about Loblaw’s Guiding Stars program — an initiative that rates foods 0 to 3 stars according to their nutrient density, or as I like to think of it, their delicious goodness — and how it’s helped me make some healthier choices. I also said I wanted to do better. But how?
As it turns out, the help I needed was right under my nose. More specificially, in a wee office behind my Loblaws pharmacy. I’m talking about my Loblaws registered dietitian, a resource available to the community for a wide variety of services, all free of charge.
It may be the store’s best-kept secret.
I’ve met with mine twice in the past week, first to learn about the myriad things in-store dietitians do and to talk about some of my specific concerns, and a second time to discuss some meal-planning strategies and visit areas of the store where we felt I could make some healthier choices.
Dietitians, like my store’s Jennifer Ong Tone, deliver a wide variety of services including:
- private nutrition consultations (Jennifer specializes in heart health, diabetes, digestive disorders, weight loss and quick and easy meals)
- grocery tours (helping people read labels and suggesting meal ideas)
- cooking classes
- school group tours
- community outreach (speaking to organizations and community groups)
“Many people think dietitians will put them on a diet,” says Jennifer. (I thought that too.) “Instead we help people identify their behaviours towards food and work to develop healthy ones. We try to focus on mindful eating and helping people get in touch with their hunger.”
Jennifer says it’s gratifying to see people embrace the Guiding Stars program and get excited about making healthy choices. (For a refresher on Guiding Stars, see Jennifer’s quick videos explaining the program and why some products don’t have stars.)
I know from our Guiding Stars Personal Profile that over 60% of the groceries we buy are star-rated products, but I’d like to see us increase that to 75. To help us do that, Jennifer showed me some of the foods we may want to add to our diet and offered recipe suggestions.
Most of the time I don’t give tropical fruits a second look — I don’t know what many of them are and they tend to be pricey. Jennifer highlighted a few we might like to try, like the 2-star yellow dragon fruit. The melon/kiwi flavour is sweeter and more pronounced than its red-fleshed cousin and makes a pretty cup for fruit salad when hollowed out.
Another interesting fella: the 3-star prickly pear (also known as the cactus pear). It’s low in calories (about 40 per pear) high in fibre (4 grams per pear) and makes a great topping for salads, cereal and yogurt.
You’ll find it and more than 300 other fruits, vegetables and herbs in Loblaws’ Fresh Produce Guide. The guide tells you the product’s origins, what it tastes like, how to know when it’s ready to eat, how to prepare it, what it goes with, its nutrition facts and its star rating. So handy! Have you ever consulted the guide?
For a low-fat, versatile and relatively inexpensive source of protein, Jennifer suggested tofu. The firmer varieties are great in stir-fries and the silken kind makes a creamy protein punch in smoothies and puddings.
But be mindful of marinated varieties — the high sugar content can negate its overall nutritional value.
I don’t know why we don’t eat fish more often. The kids love fish and chips the odd time we go to a restaurant, and it’s a lean source of protein and rich in Omega 3s. Jennifer suggested we try it in fish tacos (everybody loves taco night!) or marinated with a little maple syrup, ginger and other Asian-inspired flavours.
Oh look, there’s Jennifer! Here she’s helping me decipher the nutrition label on the Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits, which get 2 stars, versus the Multigrain Wheat Thins at 0 stars. With “multigrain” and “thin” in the name you’d think the Wheat Thins would be somewhat healthy but when you compare the two nutrition labels you’ll see the first ingredient in the Wheat Thins is enriched wheat flour, versus whole grain wheat in the Triscuits.
An even better choice however, would be the Multigrain Finn Crisp at 3 stars. It lists multigrain rye flour as the first ingredient, has 5 grams of fibre per serving (that’s good for crackers) and the list of ingredients is much shorter and recognizable. Because they’re rather
like cardboard dry, Jennifer suggested softening them up with a little cottage cheese on top. And what about our beloved Goldfish crackers at 0 stars? It’s okay to have them occasionally as treats, Jennifer says. (I knew there was something I liked about this woman!)
Now from crackers to the cereal aisle. Do you wonder why Cheerios has 2 stars and the Multi-Grain Cheerios 1 star? What should you look for in a cereal? Jennifer explains:
Finally, I wanted to get Jennifer’s advice on yogurt.
Natural, unsweetened Greek yogurt is our best bet here with 18 grams of protein per 3/4 cup serving, compared to the typical 7 or so grams in the same serving of sweetened yogurts (plus, all that sugar!). Jennifer suggested sweetening the natural yogurt with a little maple syrup, honey or a few berries. Which is totally doable, no? Maybe you do the same?
I feel like now that I know better, I can do better. Which is a confidence I didn’t expect from just a couple of hours with my dietitian. Instead of restricting food choices, Jennifer opened my eyes to a wide variety of healthy options and gave me the information I was interested in to vary our diet and boost our stars.
To learn more about Loblaws dietitians or view your Guiding Stars Personal Profile, visit Loblaws.ca. The Personal Profile is available to all PC Plus card holders (scan it when you shop to keep your profile up to date).
Are you following the Guiding Stars? Which of Jennifer’s tips will you try?
I partnered with Loblaws on this post. All opinions are my own.