FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 21, 2013) -- Walking down the aisles at a grocery store can be overwhelming and that's why Lyster Army Health Clinic offers commissary tours to teach participants how to shop for healthy food.

A group of spouses and veterans met Feb. 11 to tour the commissary with a diet technician from the Nutrition Care Clinic.

Tours are given on Mondays when the commissary is closed to allow participants a chance to learn about different healthy foods without feeling rushed through a crowd of shoppers.

The first lesson of the morning was to shop the outside of the store first and then go into the aisles to stock up on pantry basics.

"Shopping the outside of a grocery store first ensures you are visiting the fruits and vegetables section, the meat counter and the dairy section," said Jennifer Husson, the diet technician who led the tour. "Most of these products are fresh, and though they may have a shorter shelf-life than items in the aisles, they are usually better for you."

Husson encouraged participants to fill their plate with colorful fruits and vegetables. A money-saving tip when buying lettuce is to purchase the whole lettuce instead of the pre-chopped lettuce in the bag.

When looking for a snack, choose whole fruits, but if fruit cups are easier to carry around, Husson suggested looking for ones that are low in sugar and packaged in water.

The deli counter at most grocery stores can slice your meat choice in standard one-ounce servings, Husson said.

"For those who don't eat meat, a good source of protein is beans," she said.

Many brands claim to make low-fat foods, but Husson said it is important to check the sodium content as well.

"What is lower in fat is usually higher in sodium and those who need to watch their sodium intake could easily go over their daily recommended amount if they don't read the labels," she said, adding people should aim to consume no more than 2,400mg of sodium a day, unless they have high blood pressure, then the suggested amount drops to 1,500mg a day.

Vanessa Rudolph, a veteran, attended the tour to learn how to make healthier choices and control her sodium intake.

"The tour was very helpful and gave me a lot of good information," she said. "I am amazed at the amount of sodium in processed foods."

Shirley Brown, a spouse, also attended the event to learn how to shop and cook healthier.

"I had heard that red meat was bad, but today I learned that no food is particularly bad as long as it's eaten in moderation," she said.

For more information about nutrition or to sign up for the next tour, call 255-7298.