California hospitals take obesity fight to supermarkets
Enter a supermarket and the dilemma is all too common: Will what I buy be healthy? Fattening? A substitute? That’s when many wish they had a specialist at their side.
Shop with Your Doc, a program organized by a network of hospitals in the US state of California, aims to help with that, stationing doctors and nutritionists in supermarkets to aid customers in navigating food choices in a country where a third of the population is obese.
Chih-I Lee, shopping in a supermarket in the city of Irvine, admits that she has a weakness for fizzy soft drinks.
Sara Foronda worries about diabetes, which runs in her family, and struggles to look away from alluring cookies on display.
Mike Keegan wants to buy organic products but sometimes they are too expensive so he takes home substitutes.
Suddenly the shoppers cross paths with a woman in a white coat. She is Monica Doherty, a nurse specializing in family medicine.
“We are educating consumers on healthy options to help them maximize their health,” said Doherty, all the while clarifying consumers’ misconceptions and giving advice, including recipes.
Substitute mashed potatoes with cauliflower puree, for example, or sweet soft drinks with carbonated water, no sugar added, she suggested.
That is valuable advice to shoppers making their way down aisles crammed with mouthwatering temptations, much of it processed and packaged.
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, affecting 32.6 percent of the population, according to the World Health Organization.
“Obesity many times is multifactorial, and poor choices in the grocery store is one piece of it,” said Richard Afable, the doctor, who is chief executive and president of St. Joseph Hoag Health. The company has sponsored Shop with Your Doc days for three years, usually during the holiday season, when people tend to throw dietary caution to the wind.
Physician assistant Marina Sarwary (left) speaks with a shopper about food choices as part of the Shop with Your Doc program on Monday in Irvine, California.