On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, five Nebraska basketball players walked into a Hy-Vee in Lincoln, trying to blend in with the other shoppers.
“You guys look like Huskers,” a man said as he walked out the door, grocery sacks in hand.
A few smiled and others let out a quiet laugh when he rounded the corner. Then Lindsey Remmers, director of the university's sports nutrition program, started her lesson. That day, picking produce was more important than setting picks.
In the 90 minutes that followed, players Dylan Talley, David Rivers, Corey Hilliard, Brandon Ubel and Jordan Tyrance followed Remmers around the store, inspecting tomatoes, tasting deli meat, reading nutrition labels and resisting the aroma of the store's ready-made meals.
“We should have eaten before we came here,” one joked while eyeing the fried chicken.
Remmers takes Huskers from various sports on several mini field trips to the grocery store through the summer. The visits help keep the athletes' diets on track when the training table – the dining hall where they eat during the school year – is closed. I tagged along on the visit for a crash course in grocery shopping 101.
After we weaved through the produce section, our group stopped at the potato bin. Choose a handful of red potatoes over french fries,
Remmers told them. Slice them into quarters, drop them in a bowl of water and microwave them for a few minutes. It's quicker than heating up frozen starches and healthier than visiting a drive-thru.
Next up, the ethnic food sections. One of the players wanted tacos. Remmers said that the generic tortillas are better for you than the brand name product because they're trans-fat-free. When we encountered rows of pasta a little farther down the aisle, she gave Hamburger Helper the OK, but suggested the kind with whole-wheat noodles. Someone tossed a box into the cart.
Remmers hit a roadblock when the team hit the chip section. A couple players were unwilling to give up Cheez-Its. (And honestly, who could?)
• Produce is on sale during the summer months because it's in season. Take advantage.
• Rule of thumb: The darker the skin of the fruit or vegetable, the more ripe it is. Know when you plan to eat your produce, and buy accordingly.
• Ripe watermelon should be heavy for its size and have a creamy yellow spot on the rind.
• Ripe cantaloupe will smell like cantaloupe, even through the skin. Unripe cantaloupe won't smell like much of anything.
• The word “hydrogenated” – often seen in front of the “oil” – is a fancy way of saying fat. Avoid it.
• The clearer the dressing, the healthier it is. (Sorry, Ranch lovers!)
• The more whole foods – think apples and potatoes, not snacks with loads of ingredients – you eat, the more you can eat.
• If you're looking for a quick, easy meal, saute veggies – you can use frozen packages – in a pan with low-sodium soy sauce and season to taste with cumin. Add chicken.
• The least expensive deli meat is pumped with sodium and water. Splurge for the pricier stuff. Ask for a sample before you buy – you'll be able to taste the difference.
• It's smart to shop around the perimeter of the store, which is lined with fresh food, but it isn't foolproof. Stores often stock the end of each aisle with unhealthy, packaged sale items.
• Don't shop when you're hungry.
• Bring a list.
What snack won't you give up at the grocery store? Tell me in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
• If you're not into 5Ks – or maybe just tired of them – try the Scavenger Dash on Saturday. Teams of two solve 12 clues across Omaha. Click here for details.
> > > Ride your bike to raise awareness for colon cancer this weekend. Online registration is closed, but you can register in person at packet pick-up on Saturday, June 16th or the morning of the event. Click here for details.
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