A special supermarket trip showed 15-year-old Anthony Graves that when it comes to breakfast cereal, he should hold the sugar — and the salt.
At ShopRite on the Riverfront in July, a tour with Christiana Care Health System dietitians showed Anthony and other local teenagers that healthy eating often starts with reading the label.
“I was shocked when I found out there is a lot of salt in Rice Krispies,” he said. “But there it is, right on the label.”
Dozens of teens and their families got a hands-on lesson in nutrition on a field trip for Christiana Care’s Camp FRESH, a summer program that teaches teens the benefits of eating and living healthfully.
Campers and dietitians took to the aisles at ShopRite to learn how to make informed choices at the grocery store by evaluating nutrition and cost.
Karen McCurtis of Wilmington, whose 15-year-old daughter Landra is a camper, took her very first nibble of a granola bar, recommended as a healthy grab-and-go breakfast. McCurtis may have been won over.
“It doesn’t look great, but it doesn’t taste bad at all,” she said.
In the frozen-food section, dietitian Teresa Insetta pulled a bag of name-brand mixed vegetables from the freezer.
“These are good for you but they are very expensive,” she said. “It’s better to buy the store brand, because it’s less expensive and just as healthy. Frozen foods are a year-round way to bring important nutrients into your diet.”
As dietitian Isaac Hicks rounded the corner in the dairy section, he explained to the campers and their families that they could reduce their fat intake without sacrificing nutrients by switching to skim milk.
“The only difference between whole milk and skim milk is the level of fat,” he said. “The level of carbohydrates, calcium and vitamins is the same.”
After the tour, campers and their families gathered in the ShopRite cafe for a low-fat dinner and tastings, including low-sodium luncheon meats and fresh vegetables. Campers and their parents also received $20 ShopRite gift cards so they can put their new shopping skills into action.
Camp FRESH, established in 2007, encourages teens from low-income families to eat well and exercise, and it gives them educational tools to become ambassadors for good nutrition and healthier lifestyles in their families and communities.
“Research shows that exposure to healthy foods can have a positive impact on adolescents’ eating habits,” said Christopher C. Moore, program manager of Adolescent Health in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Christiana Care. “At Camp FRESH, it goes both ways. The teen can be the coach for the parent, showing how healthy living can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and support good physical and mental health.”
The eight-week program also enables Camp FRESH teens to make a difference in their communities. In recent summers, they built raised-bed gardens and ran produce stands at Howard High School and Wilmington Hospital. They also helped establish Wilmington’s first urban farm at 12th and Brandywine streets. This year they are working on “FRESH Voice,” a photo project that will capture community resources through their own eyes.
“The goal of Camp FRESH is to empower teens to make better choices that will have a positive impact on their health, from eating well, to exercising, to setting clear goals and objectives for their futures,” Moore said. “We want the program to be a one-stop shop for teens who want to maximize their potential but don’t always know how to make it happen.”