At Faith Family Medical Center (FFMC), they teach nutrition the way they want people to approach it: actively.
For the uninsured and underinsured populations they serve, affordable medical care is only part of the health equation. In 2010, the Nashville clinic realized their patients were facing a health crisis.
Of the 3,500 patients the clinic sees per year, 60% have diabetes, obesity or hypertension.
So they created Journey to Health, now a 6-week course that covers everything from stress management to exercising to grocery shopping. Participants tend the community garden, taste healthy recipes cooked during every class, and gain tools to help them succeed not in dieting, but in changing the way they look at food.
How it works
For many, the grocery store tour class is particularly life-changing. Beth Allen, registered dietitian and health educator at FFMC, sets up hundreds of common foods for the class to “shop” for and then teaches them how to read the food label in a meaningful way. They used to do the tours in-store, but she’s found holding the class at FFMC gives the group more time to stop and talk about each item as long as they need to.
- She breaks down the sodium in a can of pinto beans
- Discusses the importance of picking up the flyer at the front of the store to find deals and
- Talks about shopping the perimeter first to find the freshest foods.
When it comes to the labels, “aha! moment” #1 for most people is learning that calories are not the most important thing.
Instead, you need to make sure a food hits certain benchmarks for protein and fat.
“If it doesn’t have any fat, it won’t taste good and you won’t eat it,” Allen says. “You need to pay attention to the portion size; and you need to consider how each food fits into your daily budget for carbohydrates and sodium — things that are particularly important for people with diabetes or heart disease.
“What I’ve realized is that we’re programmed to look at the fat and calories rather than the carbs and protein, and that’s been a game-changer for me,” says Nicole, a Journey to Health participant who wants to learn more about healthy weight loss after the birth of her second baby.
“It’s been great for me to learn that changing just one thing in a meal makes a big difference. My son and husband say they don’t like turkey burgers, but last Monday night I used turkey instead of beef in my spaghetti, and they didn’t even know it! It’s all about getting as much flavor as you can into whatever you’re making.”
Small, positive changes like this are exactly what Allen wants to see. And she doesn’t expect people to be perfect. In a recent class, students talked about the nutritional value of a donut: 21 grams of carbs, 11 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein. Allen explained that since one donut contains more than a full serving of carbs and very little protein, eating one won’t keep you full very long. But she recognizes that people aren’t going to live a life without donuts — and she isn’t either.
“Did you know you can buy one donut from Krispy Kreme?” she asks the class. “They’ll look at you like you’re crazy, of course, and they’ll say, ‘You want one?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, I want six but I’m going to buy one and I’m going to enjoy it!’”
“It’s not about being perfect; it’s about finding ways to balance out those special treats you give yourself from time to time with good choices.”
“Small changes can produce big results.”
Take the Quiz
How much do you know about nutrition? The quiz below was created from information presented in the nutrition and grocery store tour classes at FFMC. Test your knowledge.
To learn more about Journey to Health, click here.