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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

“Health Starts Here” at Whole Foods Market

Mar 25, 2011 04:05PM ● By Jennifer L. Nelson

The sheer number of choices in a supermarket can be overwhelming, and consumers are often hard-pressed to resist quick and easy convenience foods and frozen meals. Add to the mix the fact that many Americans are unclear about exactly what they should be eating — and how much — for proper nutrition, and you really have a recipe for trouble.

  That’s why Whole Foods Market rolled out its Health Starts Here program. With eight locations scattered throughout Connecticut, the natural and organic chain has always been committed to high quality standards and sustainable agriculture. But now the company has taken on its biggest mission yet: helping customers achieve lifelong health. “Whole Foods started 30 years ago when people did a lot of cooking, and we want to help our customers go back to basics,” explains Mark Wilkins, Health Starts Here associate coordinator for Whole Foods Market-Northeast Region. With the help of healthy eating specialists, Whole Foods is offering customers nutritional guidance and lifestyle support in the form of seasonal cooking classes; educational lectures; product recommendations and personal shopper services; store tours; customized eating plans; and tastings of Health Starts Here recipes. Its calendar of events also includes book club gatherings and supper clubs, and customers always have access to hundreds of on-line recipes and other educational resources.

  “Instead of sitting down to a cooked meal at home, many Americans grab a meal on the go…and [that’s why] this is the first generation that may not outlive their parents,” says Ronna Corlin, healthy eating specialist for Whole Foods Market in Darien, who notes that obesity rates are four times higher than they were 40 years ago. “A program like Health Starts Here offers a prescription for optimal nutrition that can turn around addictive patterns and poor eating — and, because this is a free resource, customers also discover that there’s no charge for taking control of your health!”

  Countless studies prove that a diet rich in vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds promotes good health and reduces the risk of chronic disease. However, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 data, around 38 percent of Americans eat enough fruit, and just six percent of men and four percent of women consume an adequate amount of vegetables.

  Health Starts Here makes the research digestible with a program revolving around just four key pillars of healthy eating: choosing whole, natural, and organic foods; maintaining a plant-based diet including legumes, nuts, and seeds; consuming healthy fats from plant sources like nuts and avocados; and opting for nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories but high in micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  “Customers learn that we have the ability to make healthier choices minute to minute, meal to meal, and season to season,” Corlin says. “This healthy eating initiative empowers them to move the needle on their day and, in many cases, to reverse and prevent disease by making smarter decisions about what to buy, how to cook it, and how to define healthy eating.” To help consumers get even more bang for their nutrition buck, the company partnered with Eat Right America to label many foods sold in the market according to an Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) score, which indicates the food’s nutrient density on a scale of 1 to 1000; dark leafy greens like kale earn the highest score, while soda scores a one.

  “We’re all about demystifying the journey back to healthy eating,” says Debera Prosek, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market in Westport. “Health Starts Here is vital to today’s consumer because there’s a clear link between food and health —
and we’re here to assist shoppers in making every bite count.”

Visit Whole Foods Market at 399 Post Road West in Westport, 150 Ledge Road in Darien, and 90 E. Putnam Avenue in Greenwich.

Jennifer L. Nelson is a New Jersey-based freelance writer specializing in health, parenting, and lifestyle. Visit her on-line at