• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Making smart choices when shopping at bodegas

May 14, 2010 7:50:30 AM PDT
When you walk into most bodegas, you're bombarded with sugary drinks and salty chips. It's a quick and convenient place to shop, but how about healthy?

"Talking to my patients they would love to support their local bodegas, but there needs to be more stock of healthy items," Janine Whiteson, "Cooking Light What to Eat contributor" said.

Whiteson is a nutritionist who works in predominately Latino communities.

She advises her patients to consume low fat dairy, good quality oils and brown breads and rice.

But it's often hard to find these healthy alternatives.

"There are such high incidents in the Latino community of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, something needs to change," she said.

Bodega owner Ramon Murray opened his doors for Whiteson to take me grocery shopping at the Red Apple Deli in Hamilton Heights.

"Canned beans are an excellent source of folic fiber, potassium. They're excellent for your health -- heart disease, diabetes. They can prevent all of that," Whiteson said.

Janine says canned beans are high in salt, so rinse them off to reduce salt by 40 percent. Do the same with canned tuna, salmon and sardines.

Don't worry about losing the omega 3 fatty acids packed in them.

"Brown rice is full off fiber, folic acid, B vitamins. His customers were asking for it and they're buying it," she said.

Janine says sometimes it's just a matter of paying close attention to the label.

"He has pears in heavy syrup, which is extremely high in sugar (and) which is not necessary for the body to take in. So you have another choice here. You can have canned fruit in their own juice, which is half the sugar," Whiteson explained.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are key, but be careful about what you're family drinks.

"Make sure you go for 100 percent natural juices, not a juice drink which have a lot of sugar. Better yet, always go for water. It's the best hydrator of them all," she said.

Sometimes it's just a matter of asking. For example, Murray's customers asked him for different kinds of cooking oils, so he stocked up on an Omega 3 alternative.

Long time customer Ronnye Hines says the switch worked for him.

"It's worked out. I feel so much better. I'm more energetic," Hines said.

"If I don't love my customers, I don't have business. If they're healthy, it's better for me because they keep coming back," Murray said.

Murray says he made the transition slowly and it's paying off. And as president of the bodegas association, he's passing along the important message.