MELROSE PARK, Ill. (FNS) Diabetics toured grocery aisles as part of hour-long classes sponsored by Jewel-Osco here during November's National Diabetes Month.
The purpose of the store tour was to teach attendees how to use nutritional labeling to make their shopping trips easier, as they seek foods that are compatible with a healthy diet.
Last year, when Jewel-Osco first offered the classes, more than 800 people attended, said Greg Josefowicz, chief executive officer for the supermarket chain.
"Our goal is to help those with diabetes make the best choices possible with regard to their lifestyle, food and diabetes treatment," Josefowicz said. "Based on the positive comments from our previous classes, some people learned more about diabetes in one day than they did in living with the disease for 20 years."
About 30 units in the Chicago area participated in Jewel's Diabetes Care Program. In addition to the classes, 16 stores actively solicited participants for a study being conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center and other medical institutions across the country.
During the month of November, university program representatives recruited people in Jewel-Osco pharmacies by giving them a basic diabetes risk assessment.
"Since Jewel does events in conjunction with Diabetes Month, it was a good fit," said Margie Matulik, a registered nurse and program coordinator for the Diabetes Prevention Program. The program, involving 3,000 participants nationwide, will look for ways to prevent those at risk for diabetes from progressing into the adult onset phase of the disease, known as Type II diabetes.
The hour-long Diabetes Care Program was given by Jewel-Osco pharmacists and registered dietitians. The dietitians gave a presentation, store tour and free consultations. Classes ran every half-hour on the day that each store participated, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., or from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so that pharmacists and dietitians ran their segments continuously.
During one class that SN attended, a registered dietitian explained the importance of meal planning and urged participants to use the "food exchange" lists created by the American Diabetes Association. These lists, which note the amount of carbohydrate, protein, fat and calories in various foods, can help diabetics keep track of their carbohydrates and thus help them control their blood-sugar levels.
She also told the group that reading and understanding the Nutrition Facts on food labels will make it easier to choose the right foods, and pointed out that the food label lists total carbohydrates per serving.
"You need to work with a registered dietitian or qualified Osco/Save-On Diabetes Care Pharmacist to make a meal plan that is right for you," she told the group. "Your meal plan will tell you how much carbohydrate to eat at meals and snacks and will be designed specifically for your lifestyle, medical regimen and daily routine."
As the group toured the grocery aisles, dairy items, frozen foods, snacks and breads were used for a hands-on demonstration in label reading.
"Changing the way you eat is hard, and shopping for a new diet can add hours onto the grocery shopping task if you have to stop and read every single label every single time," the dietitian said.
She suggested tackling one section per shopping trip, and advised the group to thoroughly study the labels. Once a shopper is aware of the nutritional information, selections in the category become easier.
Class participants were also given a tour by in-store pharmacists of the aisles that stock over-the-counter medications. Free gift bags were distributed, which included information on blood-sugar monitoring and coupons.