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Hy-Vee Promotes Healthy Eats, Weight Loss
May 10, 2011

Dietitians at Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Quad-Cities have initiated a program that offers nutritious menu choices five times a day, and it’s getting a warm reception from participants.

“Fast. Fit. Food!” began as a pilot project in January at the Bettendorf Hy-Vee, Stacy Mitchell said. Mitchell, the store’s dietitian, teamed with Chrissy Mitzel, dietitian at the Rock Island Hy-Vee, to create meal plans that use fresh and frozen foods available in their stores.


“I’ve had really good success this year,” Mitchell said, noting that about 50 customers have signed up so far in the Quad-Cities.


The program combines nutrition classes and groceries, and runs for six weeks at a time.


Participants may sign up for both the classes and the foods, or just stop by and pick up a week’s worth of food.


“It’s so, so convenient,” said Ann Primus, Rock Island. She heard about Fast. Fit. Food! during a “lunch and learn” session at her office. The 51-year-old was interested in healthy eating, and also wanted to lose weight.


The six-week pilot program average was two pounds of weight loss per person, per week; while a second series of the program averaged four pounds of weight loss per week for each individual.


Primus appreciates the weight loss, but likes the program for many more reasons: food variety, portion control, the ease of picking up packages once a week, menu variety and simple preparation tips from the dietitian.


“I love the convenience and variety as much as the time it saves me,” she said. It’s easy to take food to work, for example: Primus takes “about two minutes” to pack breakfast, lunch and two snacks and be off to her job.


Mitchell got the idea for the program after customers who wanted advice approached her with a list of food and products. They’d ask Mitchell to make the most nutritious choices and said they’d pick up completed packages the next day.


Fast. Fit. Food! includes a series of weekly cooking demonstrations and information on a variety of food topics. The class format takes about 15 minutes, while 30 minutes is devoted to food preparation for the students to taste-test. The charge is $10 per class.


Food is distributed in a series of grocery sacks. Primus gets five days’ worth of menu items, which include breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. “One bag goes in the freezer and I put the others in the fridge,” she said.


Dietitians list appropriate portions of each item in the week’s plan. Each meal involves little-to-no cooking, and the preparation instructions and coordinated nutritional information is included.


The food cost for Primus is $65 per week, and she considers it a bargain. She and her fiancé eat supper together every night, and she either can share the entrée, or fix him a corresponding piece of fish, chicken or pork.


Meals on the remaining two days each week are up to the participants.


Ann Hanson of Viola, Ill., is another fan of Fast. Fit. Food! She works full-time and is studying for a degree, so she does not have extra time for meal preparation.


“I started the year with the intention of eating healthier and to continue to lose weight,” she said. She used a nationally distributed diet food program before turning to the Hy-Vee model, but had reached a plateau.


“I like the idea of a local program and the meals are quick and easy to make,” she said. And, she added, her husband is getting more interested in the menu options.


Primus has learned more about nutrition since she started Fast. Fit. Food! She liked fresh fruits and vegetables, so much of the menu plan was a good fit. But she was unfamiliar with some items that she now enjoys, including Greek yogurt and hummus dip. “I love both of those!” she said.


The menus offer foods from different nations, such as Mexico and China


Hanson, who lives in Viola, has one suggestion for Hy-Vee: Add it to the store in Milan. “That would be much more convenient,” she said.


The program is ongoing and available at Quad-City area Hy-Vee stores and in Clinton, Iowa. Mitchell said sign-ups are taken at the stores’ Customer Service area.


Being program coordinator is work, Mitchell said, but she likes the benefits — and seeing the results.


“They take my suggestions and use them … they have to because they buy them,” she said of participants.


One of the biggest barriers to weight loss is lack of planning, Mitchell said. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” she said to quote a truism. “But that’s a big barrier in today’s world.”


Source: Quad City Business Journal

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