Kershaw County’s Eat Smart Move More initiative is aiming to help the community choose healthier food options this year. According to Pam Spivey, head of the Eat Smart Move More Kershaw County local coalition, it can be difficult for consumers to know what products are healthy.
"These companies will pick up on one healthy thing in the product and try to sell it as a healthy product," said Spivey recalling the example of the hazelnut spread Nutella. Spivey noted that a Nutella commercial was recently pulled from the air because it claimed to be a nutritionally healthy choice for children’s breakfast. The skim milk and hazelnut ingredients were highlighted while the high fat and sugar content were not mentioned.
"A lot of what we buy is by word of mouth or commercial," said Spivey of consumer choices.
The Eat Smart Move More initiative is meant to help residents in Kershaw County identify which foods are nutritionally healthy by marking the foods with "Eat Smart, Move More" tags
"We’re trying to make the healthy choice the easy choice," said Spivey.
The goal of the initiative is to eventually have labels in grocery stores throughout Kershaw county.
Susan White, registered dietician with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Kershaw County Public Health Department, assisted in deciding which foods would be labeled as healthy food. The Camden Walmart is the first store to display the tags.
"For the Walmart project our Eat Smart, Move More team spent six hours reading food labels. We placed "Eat Smart" tags by foods lower in fat, salt, or sugar than the "regular" version of that food," said White,
"Bread, pasta, and rice containing whole grains were selected. Cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, and breakfast bars with at least 5 grams fiber were marked."
The group was also able to find a few treats to mark as healthy.
"It was great to find several soups, salad dressings, and deli meats because traditionally they’ve all had excess sodium. We were also excited to find frozen fruit bars, light ice cream sandwiches, and other acceptable desserts. Since fresh fruits and vegetables are all nutritious, we put large "Eat More" signs in the produce section instead of tagging individual items. We made a master list of "Eat Smart" items and hope to expand the project to all local grocery stores." said White.
While it cannot yet be contributed to the Eat Smart tags, Walmart manager Joe Quinlan has seen an increase in produce sales.
"We’re still in the process of collecting data but we’ve seen a lift so far in produce. We’re having a little more of a problem keeping those sections full, which is a good thing" said Quinlan
Quinlan emphasized the importance of giving customers the information they need to be knowledegble consumers while shopping.
As the program expands, Whitney Hinson, community health educator at KershawHealth, hopes that the program will help community members develop healthy eating habits over time
"I hope it will make it easier on the shopper to pick the healthier option for their family. This is critical to reducing childhood obesity because the parents are the ones making the decisions and buying the groceries. It doesn’t mean you can’t buy ice cream, but why not grab the low-fat or sugar free ice cream or even try frozen yogurt," said Hinson,
"I hope after a while of making subtle changes, the shopper and their family will see visible results, such as feeling emotionally better, weight loss and maybe even lowered blood pressure. This in return will hopefully motivate them to continue their new healthier eating habits for a lifetime."
Community members can be on the look out for "Eat Smart, Move More" tags in local grocery stores.