Grocery store tours teach community members how to make healthy and budget-friendly choices.
Navigating the grocery store may seem intuitive, but there are actually a lot of tips and tricks to making healthier choices that many people are missing. Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) Program Coordinator Meghan Charpentier, MS, MPH, knows that people interested in improving their health need to reconsider how they shop for groceries.
CHA grocery store tours, which Charpentier leads, are an easy way to show people healthy shopping skills, like buying seasonal produce to save money, comparing unit prices to find the best deal, and reading food labels to identify the healthiest ingredients. CHA grocery store tours are led by trained guides and are part of the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Initiative, with funding from a grant called “Cooking Matters at the Store.” The tours focus on four goals:
Each tour comes with a printed guide with recipes, a produce calendar, and a long list of food substitutions so people can more easily include their favorite healthy foods in more dishes.
“My personal goal is just to get people cooking more,” Charpentier explained. “I want my tour participants to go home and create a meal instead of going out. In order to cook healthy meals, they have to go to the grocery store and know what food to buy.”
A typical grocery store tour begins in the produce section, and the tour leader guides the group to other sections like canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, milk and yogurt, and rice and beans. Tour participants practice picking products with low sodium, low sugar, and healthy fat.
Whether it is absorbing general nutrition information or learning to cook more, Charpentier says the main point is simply to know how to eat healthier foods, which starts at the grocery store. “We want to make sure everyone has all the information they might possibly need to support a healthy lifestyle.”
Another benefit of the tour is making grocery shopping faster so that there isn’t as much time to give in to the tempting items on the shelves. “I think our participants are able to go into a store and know exactly what they want,” Charpentier said. “They have spent the time looking at labels and ingredients, so essentially they can form a running checklist of the types of healthy groceries they want. This is the type of knowledge CHA wants to share.”
CHA will be offering free grocery store tours at different locations in the area over the next couple of months. They also offer pop-up store tours for organizations that want the grocery store brought to them. View the CHA Community Wellness Classes calendar to find the schedule for the grocery tours as well as other wellness classes like yoga, cooking, and diabetes management.
To make those healthy groceries into tasty meals, CHA also offers free recipes ideas on their website. For more recipe ideas check with the NC Research Campus website and campus partners:
By Kara Marker, NCRC Marketing