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February 24, 2010 > Learn How to Make Wise Choices at the Supermarket

Learn How to Make Wise Choices at the Supermarket

Lecture at Washington Women's Center Helps You Eat Healthier for Less

Is that expensive cereal really better for you? Does your favorite wheat bread contain whole grains? Food labels can be confusing, often making it more difficult to make wise choices at the supermarket.

"Food labels provide a lot of information about the ingredients and nutrients in packaged foods," said Lorie Roffelsen, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. "They are easy to understand if you know how to read them."

She will present "Market Wise" on Monday, March 8, at the Washington Women's Center, part of an evening lecture series for women. It starts at 6:30 p.m. with a half hour of networking and sharing tips for healthy living. The lecture goes from 7 to 8 p.m. The Washington Women's Center Conference Room is located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), Suite 145 in Fremont. To reserve a space, register online at or call (510) 608-1356.

Roffelsen will explain how to make sense of food labels. Just about every packaged food sold in the U.S. has one. She will also offer tips for getting the most out of your food dollars.

The Nutrition Facts panel on the back of food products lists the serving size
and the number of servings contained in the food item along with the amount of calories, fat, cholesterol, fiber, sodium, sugar, protein and other nutrients in one serving. The serving size is important because it's the only way to know how much calories, fat and nutrients you are consuming, Roffelsen explained.

For example, if one serving is one cup and you eat two cups, you have to multiply everything on the label by two. You are getting twice the number of calories, fat grams and nutrients listed. If there are three servings in a package and you eat the entire package, you have to multiply the calories, fat grams and nutrients by three because that's how many servings are in the whole package.

Take Control

"By understanding the label, you can control what you eat," Roffelsen said. "If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, look at the amount of sodium listed on the label. Packaged and processed foods in general are higher in sodium."

She will explain what to look for in the list of ingredients, which lists the largest ingredient first followed by the other ingredients in descending order. Roffelsen will talk about health claims on labels and what they mean, including organic, low fat, heart healthy and low sodium.

"For example, if you are trying to eat more whole grains, look to see if whole wheat flour or whole grains are listed," she said. "Multi-grain doesn't necessarily mean the whole grain was used."

She will also provide tips for stretching your food dollar. "Planning really helps you save money. Decide what meals you will prepare over the next week or two and make a list before you go to the store," Roffelsen said. "Plan your menu around items that are on sale."

She will encourage participants to take advantage of local farmers markets, where prices are often good and produce is fresh. You get the best price on fruits and vegetables that are in season, and they are at their peak for flavor and nutrients, Roffelsen explained.

"It's a good rule of thumb to limit packaged and processed foods," she said. "But a lot of families rely on them, so it's important to know how to make better choices."

Roffelsen will have a number of packaged foods on hand so participants can practice reading the labels and try some healthier options. "You may find that a low-sodium or whole grain item is better than you thought, and it's better for you," she said.

For more information about other programs and services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit

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