As every knowledgeable shopper should know, you don't need to patronize a health food store to get nutritious food because your corner grocery or neighborhood supermarket offers a wealth of nutritious, wholesome foods, usually at more reasonable prices.
Unfortunately, most grocers do not dispense the sort of nutrition information necessary to help you make the best food choices because unlike their health food competitors, most grocers do not see nutrition education as one of their functions.
This was borne out in a recent study done in Nebraska by Poly Stansfield, a dietitian at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Grand Island, and Dr. Hazel Fox, professor of food and nutrition at the University of Nebraska. They used questionnaires to test the nutrition knowledge and attitutes of a number of independent grocers and managers of large grocery chains.
Here are a few of the questions they were asked about nutrition - questions you might use to test your own knowledge. All can be answered true or false.
1. One slice of bread contains more calories than a two-ounce serving of roast beef.
2. Gelatin desserts are sources of good quality protein.
3. Strawberries, cantaloupe and green peppers are good sources of vitamin C.
4. Milk and milk products are among the best sources of calcium.
5. Corn oil margarine has more polyunsaturated fatty acids than one of predominantly hydrogenated vegetable oils.
6. Peanuts and olive oils are not polyunsaturated oils and therefore do not lower cholesterol.
7. Nondairy ccream substitutes are high in polyunsaturated fats.
8. The handling and storage of food in the grocery store influences its nutrituve value.
9. Healthy, active children benefit by taking a concentrated sweet, such as candy, for energy.
Here are the answers: compare your answer with the grocers' responses:
1. False. But only one out of four of the grocers knew that bread has fewer calories than roast beef.
2. False. Hardly any answered this due right.
3. True. A third were aware that these are good sources of vitamin C.
4. True. Almost everyone knew that milk and milk products are excellent sources of calcium.
5. True. Less than half knew how to distinguish margarines with the highest amounts of polyunsaturated fats.
6. True. Fewer than a third knew that peanut and olive oils are not sources of polyunsaturates.
7. False. Fewer than one in four realized that nondiary creamers are not high in polyunsaturates.
8. True. More than two-thirds of the grocers knew that the handing and storage of food affects its nutritive value.
9. False. Only one out of three knew this was wrong.
Together, the grocers scored a D on their nutrition knowledge. Where did they get their information? A number of them said they had had some formal nutrition education, either in high school or in short courses. Seminars and attendance at conventions were cited as a means of keeping up to date. And although most felt they had no responsibility to teach good nutrition, almost two-thirds said they sometimes discussed nutrition with their customers.
What does this mean for you, the consumer? Grocers, like the rest of us, are busy people, and they rightly feel their primary function is to sell food. On the other hand, many have told us over the years that they would prefer to sell nutritions foods. The study confirmed this positive attitude.
The grocery store, like the school lunch room, is a place where sound nutrition information can be dispensed, and even more important, put to use. Some supermarket chains, such as Jewel Food Stores in the Midwest and Giant Foods in the Washington-Virginia-Maryland area, already are providing nutrition information on many of their own brand products. If more follow suit, the next time such a nutrition test is given to grocers, they just might score an A.