Supermarket tour

Sugar-free and non-fat:

Supermarket tour
Supermarket Tours help community make better food choices

Butter vs. margarine: which one is healthier? The answer may come as a surprise.

“Both butter and margarine are sources of saturated fat; however, stick margarine has partially hydrogenated oils otherwise known as trans fats, which are harmful for the heart,” said Hillary Joel, a Sodexo registered dietician at Tidelands Health. “It would be best to just use real butter, or better yet, an unsaturated fat like olive oil.” 

During Tidelands Health’s monthly Supermarket Tour event, Hillary educates community members and hospital employees alike on making healthy food choices while perusing the aisles of local grocery stores.

Sodexo’s Clinical Nutrition Manager at Tidelands Health Crystal Cates and her team began the free, hour-long Supermarket Tours in 2009 at one local supermarket. Due to popular demand, they have expanded to six supermarkets in the Myrtle Beach and Georgetown area. 

“It’s cool to think that we’re providing this service for free, and even though it’s taking our time, it’s so rewarding to see and hear the changes that the participants make down the road,” said Crystal. 

The team consists of three full-time inpatient dietitians who work with patients on specific disease states. They see critically ill patients and provide education for management of diabetes, weight and heart failure, among others. The two full-time outpatient dietitians provide individual consultations, in-depth education for weight management groups, diabetes classes and support groups and provide wellness offerings for Tidelands Health employees, spouses and local businesses. In addition, the dietitians work with church groups, civic and volunteer groups and students as requested. They promote Supermarket Tours to people from all of these various groups who want to learn to make healthier food choices.

The team has also collaborated with businesses to give tours to employees as part of wellness programs, and they have even led a tour for a large group of elementary school students. 

“It’s kind of fun to know how much you can change a tour depending on what store you’re in and what your focus is with different audiences,” said Crystal. 

While leading these tours, some of the team’s goals are to teach people how to navigate through nutritional labels to identify which foods to avoid and which foods to eat more of. They also show participants how to pick out trans fat and hydrogenated oil content in foods as well as how to distinguish between portion size versus package size. Most of the tour focuses on the foods located on the perimeter of the supermarket, where the healthiest foods are usually located. 

Sabrina Ray, who works in Tidelands Health’s Pain Management Center, registered for the tour to learn how to make better food choices.


“I was interested in learning new things about how to read nutrition labels better for myself and my family,” she said. “I learned that white cheese is better for you than yellow cheese and how to read fat, sodium and sugar content on labels.”

Crystal and her team continue to lead these tours because of the need in the community – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are all health problems that can be managed by maintaining a healthy diet.

“By doing these tours, we’re really able to help guide people, even if it’s a few simple changes like choosing a whole wheat bread,” said Crystal. 

So next time you reach for that gallon of ice cream, be sure to inspect the labels and do some comparison shopping across brands. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by which is the healthier choice.