DiscoverHealth

Woman reading labels in a grocery aisle

Lies on the label

SRHS dietician teaches how to grocery shop with a critical eye.

You will never think of a trip through the grocery store in quite the same way after you’ve been shopping with Kerri Lindberg.

She explains that there’s more than meets the eye to splashy labels, pointing to ingredients in the fine print – ingredients that make, for example, one loaf of bread a healthier choice than another (hint: look for the words “whole grain” at the top of the list).

She identifies healthy cuts of beef and explains why wild fish is richer in nutrients than farm-raised. Kerri discusses the kale craze with some puzzlement, explaining that other greens – including old-fashioned spinach – have as much or more nutritional value.

Read Kerri’s 10 ‘Tour Your Store’ Tips on Pinterest

Kerri is a registered dietician and conducts these grocery store tours regularly a number of times during the year as part of her work with the Joe R. Utley Heart Resource Center at Spartanburg Medical Center.

The Spartanburg Regional Foundation raised funds for the creation of the resource center and continues to raise money to support its programs.

Kerri’s goal: Promote heart health through nutrition and overall diet.

Experts say diet can be crucial to maintaining a strong heart.

“Healthy eating is one of the most important things you can do for your body,” according to the American Heart Association. “A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease.”

As part of her efforts to promote nutrition, Kerri wants to help make it easy and affordable for people to purchase healthy food. She knows which grocery stores in town offer the best prices on individual brands of yogurt-based salad dressing (less fat than cream-based dressings) or raw nuts (some fats are good).

Kerri has taken more than 350 people on these store tours since 2013. If there is one piece of advice she stresses most, it’s to “always – always – start with the ingredient list. What’s the food actually made out of?”

She encourages shoppers to be especially wary of partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fat, which raises levels of bad cholesterol and lowers levels of good cholesterol. Sometimes, pinpointing these harmful ingredients can be “tricky,” Kerri explains.

“Many foods containing trans fat report 0 grams per serving when looking under the Nutrition Facts Label, yet contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients,” Kerri said. "Hence my rule: ingredient list first.”

A Strong Heart Resource

As part of the Heart Resource Center, Kerri and her colleagues offer nutrition consultation, literature and other educational resources about heart disease and heart health. Staff members conduct screenings and educational presentations at events and community centers throughout the Upstate.

In 2015, the center helped more than 15,000 people.

Kerri enjoys when people “see the light” and make diet and lifestyle changes that support stronger heart health and overall wellbeing. She hopes they will share their story – and the information they’ve gained from the resource center – with others who might benefit from eating better and getting more exercise.

Many of the risk factors for heart disease – high blood pressure, excess weight, high cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar – can be prevented or minimized with proper nutrition.

“The best part?” Kerri said. “It doesn’t cost extra money (since) we have to eat! Who wouldn't want to prevent costly diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or cancer without actually paying extra to do so?”

Learn more about the Joe R. Utley Heart Resource Center.

Make a donation to support heart health through the Foundation.

Want to know more about the Foundation’s heart division? Email Nicole Papst.