Mercy Health Love County - News

Healthy Foods at Marietta Homeland Made Easier to Find

Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2011


Guiding Stars: Mercy Health/Love County dietary manager Valerie DeFoor, left, her daughter, Bailey Daugherty, and registered dietician Janet Charalampous look over a 3-star cereal at Homeland Grocery. Through store signage and shelf tags next to the price, the Guiding Stars system identifies healthier food products with 1, 2, or 3 stars. Items that are high in calories and low in nutrition display 0 stars.

Are you looking for healthy foods at Homeland Grocery?
Follow the stars.
Since last fall, Homeland has been placing stars on shelf tags next to a product's price.
The more nutritional value a food has, the more "Guiding Stars" it receives.
1 star is good; 2 is better; 3 is best; 0 means a product was rated but did not measure up to good.
Such a food, high in calories but low in nutritional value, receives no stars and has no shelf tag.
Nutrition means more vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and less trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugar, and added sodium.
Some product categories, including water, spices, coffees, teas, baby formula, and alcohol, are not rated.
Mercy Health/Love County's registered dietician says following the stars can help patients and other consumers distinguish between junk and healthy food.
"People want to do the right thing by their families, but unless you know what you're buying, you're not getting the value for your money, said Janet Charalampous during a recent tour of the Marietta Homeland.
She was accompanied by hospital dietary manager Valerie DeFoor, and, for a teen's perspective, DeFoor's 15-year-old daughter, Bailey Daugherty.
The highly-rated Guiding Stars foods and beverages tended to be located in the outer aisles of the grocery.
These included fruits, vegetables, skim and 1% milk, fish, chicken, 100% whole wheat bread, olive and canola oils, cereal, pasta, and nuts.
In certain other aisles, shelves were full of items that have been rated but earned no nutritional stars -- luncheon meats, cheeses, eggs, frozen dinners, and boxed meals, such as macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, and stovetop stuffing.
The group's first "aha" moment occurred in the bread department.
They observed that a brand with "wheat bread" in its name rated 1 star, while a brand described as "100% whole wheat bread" received 3 stars.
The difference? "Wheat bread is just white bread with food coloring in it," Charalampous said. "The 100% whole wheat has all the vitamins and fiber still in it."
“Fiber is good for general wellness and for control of diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure,” she added.
For additional comparisons of items rated from 1-3 stars, consumers can read the nutritional labels on the packaging.
A 2-star bread, for example, will likely list more grams of fiber per slice than its lower-rated neighbor.
Price is another point of comparison. In the case of the dueling wheat breads, the regular price for the 1-star and the 3-star was the same.
In the cereal aisle, a variety of brands rated 1-3 stars. Just as many earned no stars.
As with bread, the high-fiber cereals, such as General Mills Fiber One, rated 3 stars; Wheaties and Total, 2; Special K, Raisin Bran, Cheerios, and Cap'n Crunch, 1. Lucky Charms and Froot Loops drew 0 stars.
Corn flakes, Charalampous said, do not rate as high as wheat chex or bran chex because they lack fiber.
Bailey observed that the lower-rated cereals came in the attention-getting packaging. "The bright colors draw kids' attention," she said.
Her mother suggested that parents draw their children's focus to the stars instead. "Make a game out of locating the foods with Guiding Stars."
Nearly all fruits and vegetables rated 3 stars, whether fresh or frozen. Added cheese sauces pulled the rating down.
Charalampous offered additional guidance: with vegetables, hard shell is better than soft shell.
For example, winter squash, such as butternut, acorn, or pumpkin, are more nutrient dense than the watery yellow crookneck summer squash or green zucchini.
Sweet potatoes have more vitamins and fiber than white potatoes, but while potatoes are OK when eaten with the skin.
Charalampous said registered dieticians may occasionally quibble with some of the Guiding Star rankings, and patients are welcome to seek advice at the dietary department of the hospital if they have questions about a food item.
In her case, she agreed that spinach salad rated 3 stars, but wondered whether watery iceberg lettuce should also receive 3.
She believed that ground beef, at 1 star, might have been rated too low. "I would consider giving it 3 stars, same as chicken," she said.
Also, she recommended pork. "If you don't eat the fat, it is pretty lean."
In the frozen food aisle, most TV dinners drew no stars.
Frozen orange juice merited 2 stars, while, in the nearby beverage aisle, a carton of reconstituted orange juice had none. "It has only 5% juice. It's a punch," the dietician said.
The highest fat, highest calorie items examined were wieniers, bratwurst, and sausage. No stars, of course, but tempting because, DeFoor said, "They're easy to prepare."
"It's far better to eat a slice of ham or tuna fish or a piece of chicken, because they are not loaded with fat and salt," Charalampous added.
Homeland is the first Oklahoma company to adopt the Guiding Stars system.
Hundreds of other supermarket lines, hospitals, public schools, and colleges in the country also use Guiding Stars.
It is available as an iPhone application and on the web.
Guiding Stars, a Maine company, has analyzed nearly every food product on the market, regardless of manufacturer, using a scientific formula that takes into account current nutritional guidelines and recommendations.
As Love County's only grocer, Homeland's initiative could not have been more welcome or more timely, according to the newly-formed Health and Fitness Committee of the Love County Community Coalition.
The 50-member group, which includes Homeland Grocery and Mercy Health/Love County, is working on ways to create healthy food and fitness opportunities in Love County schools, communities and workplaces. 
They are combating poor health outcomes attributable to low nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. Oklahoma ranks last in the nation in the consumption of fruits and vegetables, for example.
Committee chair Mendy Spohn, area health department administrator, suggested that parents, teachers, school and community group leaders capitalize on Homeland's service by taking their child and adult members on a tour to see the value of the Guiding Stars system for learning the make-up of a balanced diet.
"Guiding Stars is a way to quickly identify the healthy choices and help families make better decisions when it comes to food," she said.