How to Conduct a Supermarket Shopping Tour for Athletes

- a guide for Sports Dietitians -

by Clare Wood

Why do a shopping tour?

Nutrition is such an important part of an athlete’s routine, and can absolutely have an impact on performance, and shopping is an integral part of putting together a healthy dietary plan. What’s important is not only what to buy for the cupboards, but also how to plan a weekly menu, budgeting, shopping for a planned menu, and even minimizing food wastage can all help. Most importantly though is how to read and comprehend the food labeling on food packaging, and understanding the nutritional content of foods in a practical way. How to shop and cook are both essential for an athlete’s sporting success.

Ways to conduct a shopping tour

There are many ways to conduct a shopping tour that will enable participants to get a better understanding of food labels and nutrition. What you choose will depend on the group you want to engage. For the younger athletes, I usually include a worksheet for participants to fill in. This keeps them occupied and engaged for the duration of the session. Or the scavenger-hunt style option is always popular and fun. For older participants, possibly non-athletes, you can include a handout with lots of information from each food section and run through the sheet with them as you guide their way through the supermarket, keeping it simple but easy to consume lots of information.

The first thing to do is a simple walk through the supermarket to each different food section. You can do a small spiel about each type of food, including nutritional basics, and then ask each person to choose a product from the shelf to read and discuss the intricacies of the label, comparing products and making recommendations. After all, if people are paying, they want some tangible information to go away with. Continue doing this for each food section. 

Running a scavenger hunt, including some education elements, has always been a winning combination for the younger athletes. They stay engaged and are challenged by this method, having fun while learning. Send them on the hunt to find some specific food items, with certain criteria. This Supermarket Scavenger Hunt resource will give you a start.

shoping aisles shopping aisles can be overwhelming

A shopping tour can be done as a prelude to a cooking class, whereby the participants are actually buying the food to cook during the class. So you could include a planning stage of choosing recipes to use, then creating a shopping list to purchase the ingredients. Each group can have one recipe that they are cooking and they need to find each ingredient to buy, but need to choose the best one to fit your specifications, i.e. the ‘light’ sour cream, the ‘high-fiber’ bread, the ‘protein-rich’ yogurt, or the most budget conscious or environmentally friendly option, depending on the angle you are going for.

Finally, to add more of a challenge, you could include sticking to a budget. See the Healthy Lunch on a Budget Task, a resource for a budget focused information session. When they have purchased the core healthy ingredients, then with the leftover money they can choose a treat, creating more discussion points on healthy alternatives.

Food Label Reading Exercise

A no-fuss less didactic method is to ask participants to find three or four different food items on the shelves, and then answer questions from the Food Label Reading Exercise about each of them. Also make use of this information about Food Labels and Food Claims List. Reconvene after a while and discuss the answers found to make your nutritional recommendations. This will extract lots of good learning opportunities.

Conclusion

Obviously, you can use a combination of these ideas, depending on the group you are working with. There are also opportunities for shopping tours with any disease state that requires a dietary prescription, for example diabetics, heart disease patients, allergy or intolerances sufferers, and then tailor it to the needs of the participants. 

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