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Shopping for nutrition pays off

DULUTH, Minn. - To avoid your own rounded "middle," Peggy Klinga of the
Fond du Lac Reservation Nutrition Education Assistance Program advises that
you avoid the middle aisles in the grocery store.

"You stick to the outside of the grocery store, the outside edge - your
grains, your fruits and vegetables, your meats, your dairy. Avoid those
middle aisles with cookies, canned soups and stuff."

Klinga works for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa near
Cloquet, Minn. Her job in the nutrition education program covers four core
areas: diet quality, food safety, food economy and shopping skills. This
program has been funded for two years at Fond du Lac through the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. The nations of
Mille Lacs, Bois Forte and Leech Lake also participate.

The point of the program is to help people make better decisions about what
they eat to reduce health problems and obesity.

In Indian country, double the number of school-aged children are overweight
or obese compared to the general population, according to Jean
Charles-Azure, principal nutrition consultant for IHS. Among school-aged
Indian children, 2 of every 5 are overweight or obese compared to 1 of 5
children in the general U.S. population.

Many people think they can't afford the cost of fresh fruits and
vegetables, but Klinga says planning is key to making the right food
choices at the right prices. Buy what's on sale and what's in season, she
suggests.

"It takes some thought, but you know you're going to be eating all week, so
you just have to think about it."

The other plus is to fill your larder with staples. Stock up on onions,
potatoes and carrots, then incorporate those into different recipes. You'll
have what's needed to make nutritious meals fast.

She also has recommendations for what NOT to buy and have on hand.

"If we have a cookie jar full of Oreos, what am I going to choose?" she
asks. "If it isn't in the house, it's a whole lot less tempting."

Since she's been involved with the program, Klinga said, she's learned a
few lessons. She loves yogurt and has found that buying in bulk saves
money. "Now I've been buying the big tub of vanilla and then [buying] fruit
to put in."

She buys frozen vegetables rather than canned, too, because the bag can be
reclosed after the amount you need is taken out.

Klinga has also learned that in some cases spending just a little more can
ultimately save money because there is less waste. She buys baby carrots,
for instance, and keeps them in a jar of water, ready for snacking in the
refrigerator. They cost more than the larger carrots, but she's more likely
to eat them.

She also learned, and in turn co-taught others, to read labels rather than
just grabbing anything off the shelf.

"Compare prices; compare what's in it. With bread, I always buy whole
wheat. I look for labels with whole wheat flour, water, just like four
ingredients. If it says corn syrup, high fructose syrup, I don't buy it. I
don't want my bread to taste sweet."

There are other definite things to avoid in grocery shopping. Don't go when
you're hungry (and more likely to impulse-buy) and try not to shop with
your children (they will ask for treats that it's best to avoid).

"With kids it's 'I want this' and before you know it, it's gotten out of
control."

Under the nutrition education program, Klinga has actually brought people
out shopping to learn better techniques. She's also taught classes on
canning vegetables, cooking and how to can venison or make jerky.

"We try to do that in the fall when people are out hunting or [gathering]
wild rice."

Better eating habits means lifestyle changes, too. Klinga explained to
people that if they make things in advance - such as preparing lasagna the
day ahead or filling the crock pot in the morning for an evening meal -
they are less likely to get drawn into the calorie-intensive habits of
going through a fast-food drive-thru.

Programs such as those at Fond du Lac, which teach shopping and sometimes
cooking choices, make a difference, Charles-Azure said.

"I strongly believe teaching people healthy cooking techniques can help
people improve their food choices ... Women are in a powerful position
regarding what foods are purchased and consumed by their families. Women
care about the health of their families. Teaching mothers to cook healthier
can affect the whole family."