Many of the individuals participating in the Supported Living program have set personal goals for fitness and making healthier food choices, however, a few people had noticed they had put on some extra pounds after the holidays were over. Chad Mitchell, Direct Support Specialist at Team 108, put together a presentation on nutrition to help everyone learn how to make healthier food choices.
Chad researched a nutritional system used at the local Hy-Vee food store chain called NuVal®. The NuVal® System scores food on a scale of 1 to 100. If a food has a high NuVal® score, it is more nutritious. It ranks each food based on protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A shopper can use the score not only to compare foods in one category, but across food categories. For example, consumers can find the most nutritious vegetable and also compare its score to a veggie burger to see which is the healthier choice.
“Those interested in participating met as a group and I talked about how the system works and shared samples of NuVal® labels so they would recognize them at the grocery store,” says Chad. “Everyone likes cookies, so I had NuVal® labels from 2-3 different kinds of cookies and asked everyone to figure out which cookie was the most nutritious. Group members seemed to catch on to the concept quickly.”
Next, Chad arranged a field trip for the group to do some investigating at the nearby Hy-Vee store. “Many of the people we support shop in the frozen food section, so we started there,” says Chad. “I asked people find their favorite foods and then look for which brand had the best NuVal® score. A few individuals really got into researching the healthiest options for their favorites.”
The group moved to various aisles in the store to look at vegetables and fruits, snacks, treats and beverages. Chad said some of the participants learned that their “go-to” brand may or may not be the healthiest choice. “I hope this will help them make more nutritious food choices when they are shopping next time,” says Chad. “Many of the people we serve have been able to make significant health changes simply by making better food choices.”