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Teaming up to make healthful eating easier

Just in time for New Year's resolution-making, a new service offered by a local supermarket chain in tandem with a West Seneca dietitian will give consumers a creative weapon when they head to the grocery store shelves with healthfulness in mind.

The program, dubbed "Savings for Health," is a collaboration between Tops Markets and Propel Health, a Southtowns dietary and diabetes education business owned by registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Jeff Ensminger.

For a small annual fee -- about $20 -- the program offers enrollees access to food and menu information and planning that is updated weekly to reflect the products and items available and on sale in the region's Tops stores.

The goal of the service, said creator Ensminger, is to show people that eating healthfully can be done cheaply as well -- and to empower shoppers with menus, recipes and nutritional information so they can feed themselves and their families well.

"This is definitely for everyone," said Ensminger, who specializes in working with people with diabetes and cardiovascular issues. "It's geared toward preventing chronic diseases, but treating them as well."

"My overriding theme," he said, "is that healthy eating does not have to be more expensive. That's a misconception."

Subscribers get access to a Savings for Health website -- www.savingsforhealth.com -- that shows what's available at Tops Markets across Western New York in a particular week. The website provides detailed shopping lists, as well as nutritional information, for weekly use. Menus based on the available foods and sale items are provided on a weekly basis.

As more people join the service, the weekly information will likely be e-mailed directly to users, Ensminger said.

Kate McKenna, a Tops Markets spokeswoman, said that the Buffalo-area grocery stores are being used in this first phase of the new initiative.

If all goes as planned, she said, the project will be broadened out to other areas.

"Customers can look forward to more health and wellness programs from Tops in the New Year," she said. "We care about our communities, and we care about the people we serve. Education is going to be a key focus for us in the New Year. We want to help our customers make good nutritional choices."

The service appears to be innovative in the region in its targeted weekly approach.

At Wegmans, dietitians have been employed by the company since 1988, said Theresa Jackson, a registered dietitian with the company.

Six staff dietitians at Wegmans currently help consumers by developing healthy recipes and innovative food items, teaching cooking classes and writing informational brochures, among other things, Jackson said.

"Wegmans nutritionists are highly sought after speakers and experts in the community," she said. "You'll find them blogging about nutrition topics at Wegmans.com and doing frequent media interviews and programs. Customers can also sign up for Fresh News e-mails, which will deliver wellness information straight to their inbox, along with recipes, entertaining ideas and information. The nutritionists also work with our pharmacists to enhance the patient experience at the pharmacy counter, by providing healthy eating information and displays specific to different themes or seasons of the year."

Ensminger, 43 and a married father of three, said he will be available for personal, one-on-one counseling and advice to individuals who enroll through the Savings for Health website.

"We know that...knowledge is power," Ensminger said. "For people who need that weekly guidance, this is a good fit."

To give an idea of some of the information offered through Savings for Health, here's one its healthy recipes:

>Shrimp Panzanella

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved

4 cups half-inch crusty multigrain tbread cubes, preferably day-old

1 pound coarsely chopped peeled cooked shrimp

4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 large green, red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives, plus 1/4 cup olive brine

3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried

4 cups mixed salad greens

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Mash garlic into the oil with a fork to infuse it with flavor; discard the garlic. Stir bread cubes into the oil until lightly coated. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until very crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Combine shrimp, tomatoes, bell peppers, parsley, chives, olives and olive brine, vinegar, thyme and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Season with pepper. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Toss the croutons with the shrimp mixture and serve the salad over greens.

Makes 6 servings, about 1 3/4 cups each. Active Time: 45 minutes. Total Time: 45 minutes.

Nutrition: Per serving: 291 calories; 14g fat (2g sat, 9g mono); 115mg cholesterol; 22g carbohydrates; 1g added sugars; 21g protein; 5g fiber; 498mg sodium; 750mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: vitamin C (130% daily value), vitamin A (62% dv), folate (25% dv), iron (22% dv), potassium (21% dv), magnesium (20% dv).

Source: Eating Well/Savings For Health

e-mail: getwell@buffnews.com

cvogel@buffnews.com

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