* Avoid partially hydrogenated oils.
* Look for whole-grain pasta.
* Try salsa on a baked potato instead of butter and sour cream.
* Try "mini" 100-calorie bags of popcorn.
* For healthy fats, try a palmful of nuts, but avoid sugar-heavy honey roasted nuts.
* For breakfast, look for high-fiber cereals on the top shelf.
Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department dietitians
A simple trip to the grocery store isn't so simple these days.
Nutrition labels full of unfamiliar ingredients, packaging that advertises "diet" but downplays sky-high sodium levels, and endless rows of choices leave some consumers overwhelmed, according to local public health educators.
Dietitians with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department on Tuesday tried to help shoppers better navigate the grocery store labyrinth with a workshop and tour of the Bi-Lo grocery store in Red Bank.
The workshop offered a primer on how to decode nutrition labels and tips for eating better, which can be a challenge even for the health-conscious shopper.
"Sometimes labels are deceiving," said Robin Darling, dietitian with the health department.
For 23-year-old Priti Mistry, a part-time health educator at the Hamilton County Wellness Center, the session was eye-opening.
"I wish I knew this before (college) because I did all the grocery shopping," the recent graduate of East Tennessee State University said.
Nutritionists often advise shoppers to stick to the "perimeter" of the grocery store, where fresh produce, dairy products and meats are stored, Darling said. Nutritionally, "you could survive on the perimeter of the grocery store without going into the middle," she said.
But most people don't stay on the fringes and need some help making healthy choices in the center aisles, she said.
Beware of "fruit drinks" or "fruit cocktails," dietitians said. Unless the drink says "100 percent fruit juice," it's probably loaded with added sugar, said Jennifer Scanlan, dietitian who helped lead the Bi-Lo tour.
Even pure juices contain lots of sugar, so drink it in moderation and add water to cranberry or apple juice, she said.
Other tips from the tour:
• Regular butter Orville Redenbacher popcorn contains 12 grams of fat per serving, compared with just 1/2 gram of fat for the "Smart Pop" version of the same brand, Scanlan said.
• All fiber bars are not created equal. Kellogg's Fiber Plus bars, drizzled with chocolate, have 3 grams of saturated fat, compared to 1/2 gram for Kashi's TLC bars, which have chocolate chunks in them, too, Scanlan said.
• Sometimes pre-packaged items are a worthwhile time-saver, but in other cases, the nutritional trade-off is too high a price for convenience, Darling said. She pointed to a package of instant potatoes with 23 ingredients listed on the label.
"I can't even tell you the origin of most of them," she said.
In this case, she said, it's worth the time to just do some peeling and chopping on your own, she said.
"We're not saying, 'Make sushi.' We're saying, 'Make potatoes,'" she said.