A Supermarket Adventure

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By: Steve Anderssen

Recently I participated in a two hour guided tour of the Balaclava Coles Supermarket (just off Carlisle Street, corner of Camden and Alfred Streets). This is a service hosted by Nutrition Services, Diabetes Australia Vic. Samantha Cowan was our personal nutritionist/tour guide. For people with diabetes, this personalized educational tour is an absolute must and for the rest of us it is strongly advised. Unfortunately we live in an age of allergies, genetically modified foods and food additives. Many international brands are offered in a crowded market place but they don’t always contain ingredients that are good for us. Often MSG, salt and sugar are hidden or listed as code numbers in very fine print. It’s a good tip to keep a small magnifying glass in your shopping bag to help you detect hidden ingredients (or gluten if you are celiac).

Samantha gives a comprehensive tour of supermarket aisles, pointing out and comparing the nutritional value of specific brands. It was very interesting for me as a nutritionally conscious chef, to realise that some of my favourite brands were not actually as healthy as I had previously thought. As we get older our metabolisms slow down and maintaining healthy weight and overall wellbeing can sometimes be a challenge. In order to be aware of better food choices, we must first understand certain facts about our food and how it reacts with our bodies. Everyone is different with individual dietary needs.

To promote good health you must eat a balanced selection of the five basic food groups. To learn more visit: http://www.nutritionaustralia.org where Nutrition Australia has developed and illustrated ‘The Healthy Living Pyramid’. It encourages food variety and a diet of minimum fat, adequate fibre, limited salt and sufficient water that is balanced with physical activity. Physical activity is an essential part of the energy balance equation that should be combined with healthy eating.

“My favourite website to go to for reliable nutrition information and healthy recipes is http://www.healthyfoodguide.com.au” said Samantha as we jotted down notes. By eating low GI foods energy is released slowly and this helps to stop cravings. A balanced meal for achieving weight loss should consist of 25% low carbs (e.g. pasta, rice, sweet potato), 25% lean protein (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, tofu) and 50% non-starch vegetables.

During the tour we learned how to read food labels, select healthy food alternatives and identify appropriate products that are diabetes friendly. We were taught about Low GI foods and were also given a show bag with a Diabetes Australia shopping guide, information sheets and other useful tips for everyone, not just people with diabetes. “In order to lose weight your body must be in ‘energy deficit’. This means you must consume fewer calories during the day than what you expend through physical activity and basal metabolic rate (BMR)” said Samantha. Simply put: eat less, exercise more! This is not what I wanted to hear but it is my unavoidable truth.

I learned quite a bit from Samantha about my own personal diet. I found that most of my usual choices were good ones but my portion sizes needed attention. A serve of cooked pasta is only 1 ½ cups and 1 cup for cooked rice.  Sweet Potatoes are low GI and so are white ‘Carisma’ potatoes and white ‘Belita’ potatoes. Walnuts are high in omega 3 (10 -15 is an appropriate serve size). Berries are great as a low GI snack and are considered a low sugar fruit. Another interesting fact is that Kangaroo Meat is one of the leanest and healthiest available.

The bakery section was perhaps the most enlightening, once I understood how to read the nutritional facts label. Multigrain breads aren’t necessarily made with whole grain flours. Samantha suggests choosing breads with at least 6-7g of dietary fibre per 100g. Her picks for the healthiest brands were Bürgen and country life breads, also Wattle Valley, Norganic and Goodness Superfoods wraps or Helgas Wholegrain quinoa & flaxseed.

If you would like to enquire, or make a booking, call the info line 1300 136 588 or contact www.diabetesvic.org.au.  Limited bookings are available for each tour and they are organised according to demand. You may have to wait a few weeks or perhaps you can join a tour in another suburb. It only costs $20 for the 2 hours or $15 for members of Diabetes Vic. It may just save your life…

According to the Diabetes Australia Vic website:

We know that certain features in the environment can trigger ‘type 1’ diabetes in some individuals who have a genetic predisposition and may be responsible for the increase in ‘type 1’ diabetes over the past 30 years. It is not possible to identify all the people in the general community who have the genes that are associated with ‘type 1’ diabetes risk. Only 20% of people who develop type 1 diabetes have a relative that also has ‘type 1’ diabetes and currently ‘type 1’ diabetes can’t be prevented.

‘Type 2’ diabetes has reached epidemic status around the world and is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia. Almost one in four Australian adults are either at risk or already have developed the condition. In Victoria 70 new cases of ‘type 2’ diabetes are diagnosed each day. A further 1.2 million Victorians are in the high risk category for developing ‘type 2’ diabetes.

Alarming as these statistics are, many people don’t know they are at risk of developing ‘type 2’ diabetes, don’t seem to think it’s a problem or worse still, have already developed it but have not yet been diagnosed. In the past, ‘type 2’ diabetes was called ‘adult onset’ diabetes as those who developed the condition typically were middle-aged. These days it’s an unfortunately reality that people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a much younger age, some even as children. This is directly related to the lifestyles we’re living today. Being physically inactive or overweight are major factors contributing to the increase in ‘type 2’ diabetes. ‘Type 2’ diabetes often runs in families, so if you have a family history of diabetes, you may be at increased risk.

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