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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Health Starts Here: Whole Foods Market Demystifies Budget-Friendly, Healthy Eating

Feb 29, 2012 10:34PM ● By Lillie Viola

The sheer number of convenience foods invitingly displayed in a supermarket leave consumers hard-pressed to resist quick and easy pre-packaged foods, as well as frozen meals that cost less than fresh meat and vegetables. Throw in conflicting media reports and information about what should be eaten for good nutrition or well-being, and the task of food shopping can seem daunting.

To help shoppers in pursuit of improving their health through a better diet, Whole Foods Market introduced its companywide Health Starts Here initiative, which reflects the philosophy of CEO John Mackey. The program revolves around four key pillars of healthy eating: choosing whole, natural and organic foods; maintaining a plant-based diet that includes 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. Other aspects include educational tools, recipes to improve health and support tools to inspire interest in foods that help enhance and maintain health and vitality. Foods throughout the store that are part of the program display Health Starts Here signage.

Additionally, a Five Ways to Save program, noted with yellow and red signs, helps shoppers create delicious meals for less. The signs highlight weekly specials (deep discounts on select and limited items); hot weekend deals (Friday through Sunday only); great buys (long-term discounts that staff buyers negotiate and pass along to consumers); and family-sized savings (larger sizes/smaller prices), as well as sales on hundreds of items throughout the store in every department. Customers that sign up for the weekly newsletter offered by the Naples store or become Facebook or Twitter fans are notified about specials and recipes. The easy-to-use Shopping List featured on the Whole Foods website allows customers to customize a “My Groceries” personal shopping list, which even suggests ingredients that are available under the store’s private label 365 Everyday Value® brand.

To help consumers get even more bang for their nutrition buck, the company has 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 1,000; dark, leafy greens like kale earn the highest score, while soda scores a one.

Backed by a medical advisory board, the retailer also offers a variety of cooking classes, along with healthy eating supper clubs, for a modest fee. The Naples Health Starts Here and Green Mission Specialist, Julie Joiner, is on hand to talk about the Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge, a program developed by Rip Esselstyn, son of Caldwell Esselstyn, who appears in the documentary, Forks Over Knives. Joiner can also help customers identify the best items to toss into their shopping carts. “We teach people how to shop for good health, because Health Starts Here is a lifestyle,” says Joiner, who adds that the best part about the program is turning people on to some really great food and inspiring them to get back into the kitchen.

Location: 9101 Strada Place (the Mercato), Naples. For more information, call 239-552-5100 or visit

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