It's time the phrase "shop till you drop" got a rewrite. A new, healthier mantra could be, "Shop so you drop -- some pounds."
A recent class offered by Hilton Head Hospital called "Smart Diabetes Grocery Shopping" offered strategies for shopping and buying healthier foods. The class was aimed at people with diabetes who must keep a close watch on dietary portion control to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, as their bodies don't produce enough insulin to convert sugar into energy.
Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder where the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. This can cause low and high blood sugar -- neither of which is healthy. By eating the correct amounts of various foods, some diabetics can help balance their blood sugar with diet alone. Other diabetics also require medication.
The hospital's classes were offered due to the high incidence of diabetes in the area, said Elizabeth Huggins, a dietitian, exercise physiologist and outpatient diabetes education coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital.
"More people are struggling with their weight more than ever," Huggins said.
For all diabetics, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial. Also, being overweight is among factors that can lead to developing Type 2 diabetes. It's a balancing act -- high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the body; not enough blood sugar can cause loss of consciousness.
About a dozen people -- some diabetics, others just looking for healthy shopping strategies -- signed up for the class Huggins led Wednesday through the Shelter Cove Piggly Wiggly on Hilton Head Island.
"Pacing yourself in starting these new healthy habits is a must for success," Huggins told the class.
She said to begin by reading the food labels of products in your home before going shopping. The front label of most packages are for marketing purposes only, she said. Turn the package over and read the nutrition label, looking for portion size first.
"You have got to get your bearings with the portion it is talking about versus the portion you are going to eat," Huggins said.
Some of her other tips included choosing water over diet beverages to save calories and money, and buying oil and vinegar salad dressing to help lower blood sugar. She reminded the group to enjoy what they eat to help them stick to a plan.
"I believe if you are going to eat a food, you should enjoy the taste," Huggins said.
For a snack, instead of cheese and crackers, try eating hummus on celery and cucumbers. Choosing a high-fiber wrap over bread might mean a healthier sandwich, but it also might provide a dry taste. Huggins suggested adding juicy vegetables such as fresh tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and sliced cucumbers.
When shopping for a high-fiber bread, Huggins cautioned not to be fooled by the color of the bag, read the label. Look for products with at least three grams of fiber per serving.
To ensure success, do not try to make huge changes the first time around. And after getting your diet under control, Huggins said the next step is to look at your activity level.
"Eat real food and get back in touch with what is a normal portion," Huggins said. "When people are sedentary, it negatively impacts their health."