PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- A Publix supermarket here and the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida in Dunedin have teamed up to host their first HeartSmart shopping tour today.
The tour consists of helping consumers read labels for health benefits, introductions to new heart-healthy products on the market, and a discussion about the importance of diet and exercise in combating heart disease, according to Mary Reis, registered nurse practitioner and leader of the tour, along with store manager Steve Rupke.
"It lets the community know that the Heart & Vascular Institute of Florida and Publix Super Markets are working together to get the information out there about the importance of watching your diet, getting regular amounts of exercise, getting your weight under control, and modifying whatever cardiac risk factor you can to keep you well," Reis said. "In all ways, it affords not only the patients, but people shopping in Publix to know that there are programs and people out there that are willing to put forth this education, time and effort. It's been a great working relationship."
Craig Kaser, assistant manager for the Coral Landings Publix, said, "It will bring more customers into the store." He said their large elderly clientele will particularly benefit from the HeartSmart tour. "As a consumer, it helps them because they are eating healthier."
The two-hour tours will be run in groups of 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. It will include an explanation of the new placement of HeartSmart labels on nationally branded and private label foods, education on the importance of modifying risk factors for heart disease, and an open forum for questions.
"We identify food products that meet the criteria for low unsaturated fat, total fat and cholesterol," said Reis. "It really affords people an opportunity to go into the store itself and identify foods that have already been critiqued by nurse practitioners and dietitians." The "HeartSmart Shopping Item" shelf tags will stay up year-round so consumers can "pick good choices," according to Reis.
The institute's LIFEHELP program -- Lifestyle Intervention For Enhanced Health Through Exercise, Lipid Management, and Preventive Services -- works exclusively with Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix. Reis said their goal is to hit four stores in the Pinellas County area, with the next tour scheduled in May or June at a different Publix store. She said they want to cover a wide area in conjunction with their offices and to reach the community.
Reis added, "[This particular Publix] brings in 30,000 people a week, so you're talking a great amount of people."
Participants are charged $12, while Publix provides everyone with a $10 gift certificate to the supermarket, said Reis. They also provide a low-fat snacks for the participants, like low-fat cheese and crackers or a vegetable tray. She said a private meeting room in the store is also available for participants who have further questions.
Reis added that store managers are accommodating in merchandising new heart-healthy foods, like soy products. "If there's not something on the shelf, the manager is happy to find a vendor if that's possible, and provide that food product."