March 2020 Blog Posts

Who Runs the World?

Queue Beyoncé and put her on repeat because this month, I’d like to give a shout out to women—specifically, the women behind the food products that we, Giant nutritionists, love so much!

First up, Frieda's exotic produce. We LOVE Frieda’s produce! But not only do we love their products, we love their story. A 2nd generation female-owned family business (#girlpower!), Frieda’s is the one responsible for introducing exotic produce to our grocery stores! Did you know that kiwis used to be considered exotic? And guess who first introduced this fruit to the United States? Frieda did!



So mamas, if you’re having a tough time getting your kids to try new fruits or veggies, have them pick something out from Frieda’s, available at Giant, that interests them! Last year, we held Nutrition Made Easy Classes for Kids and featured items such as red dragonfruit, kiwi, and rambutan—the kids loved it!



Next up, Caulipower. Shout out to Founder Gail Becker, helping busy moms everywhere have access to a delicious and convenient cauliflower crust pizza! After facing a Pinterest fail trying to make a tasty cauliflower crust for her two sons with Celiac Disease, Gail decided to create Caulipower. Now, readymade cauliflower crust is available to those who don’t have time to make it from scratch (which, trust me, can be a time-consuming process). You can bet Gail definitely knows a thing or two about being a busy mom!

And with me also being a busy mom, the Margherita Pizza is my fav for a quick dinner! But if you haven’t tried their other products, you’re missing out! Their Sweet PotaTOASTS make breakfast quick and DELICIOUS and are sure to turn your avocado toast game up a notch! I love to top it with slices of avocados from Avocados from Mexico for some of those good fats that’ll keep me satisfied throughout the day. Then, I’ll top it with an egg, sprinkle some red chili pepper flakes, and voila! A simple, nutritious, and delicious breakfast for a busy mama!



And last, but certainly not least, SouperGirl! The name kind of says it all. And I have to admit, I'm kind of biased and love this company even more because they’re local! SouperGirl was founded by Sara Polon, who teamed up with her mom (love it!) to create soups that are locally inspired and nutritious. But not only do they make delicious soup, they also care about our planet and food system by supporting local farms and composting-- you know that I can stand behind that!

So the next time you need a quick meal, don’t forget SouperGirl. You’ll be sure to get your whole grains, plant proteins, and veggies! My favorite? Their Greek Red Lentil Soup. High in protein, high in fiber, low in sodium, and receives a Guiding Stars!



Here’s to good nutrition, delicious food, and women in power!

Thu is a Registered Dietitian and In-Store Nutritionist for Giant Food. A proud millennial mommy, Thu loves good food made easy--saving time for cold brew mornings and evening wine downs. So if you’re looking for simple, fun, yet better-for-you options, Thu has them! In her series, Thu will serve up creative recipes and uses for trending foods, all of which can be found in-store at Giant Food.




Eat Right Bite by Bite with Guiding Stars

March is National Nutrition Month, which reminds us of the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme this year is Eat Right, Bite by Bite. What a great opportunity to re-introduce you to the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program that’s available to our customers!

Many of our stores have more than 40,000 products! That gives us a lot of choices. Guiding Stars makes it easy to choose foods that offer beneficial nutrition. The more nutritional value a food has, the more Stars it gets. By following the Stars, you can save time choosing products and be confident you are making a nutritious choice.

Guiding Stars’ easy-to-use star ratings are available as you shop in-store or online at Giant. Using a patented algorithm, the Guiding Stars program evaluates the nutritional quality of food based on the information from the Nutrition Facts Panel and the ingredients list. Foods are evaluated and receive a rating based on the assignment of credits and debits. Guiding Stars crunches the numbers so you can munch on healthy foods. It’s that simple.



How do you know when a food earns Guiding Stars?

You’ll see a Guiding Stars tag with one, two, or three stars identifying that a product is a good, better, or best choice for you. You won’t find Guiding Star ratings on coffee, water, spices, or tea because they don’t have enough calories per serving to rate. In addition, Guiding Stars does not rate medical foods such as supplements and baby formula or alcohol. Other than that, if there is no rating on the hanging tag for a product in-store or in its details online, then it didn’t earn a Guiding Star. This doesn’t make it a bad food, it just means that it offers more of what we’re trying to limit, such as salt and sugar, and not quite as many of the positive attributes we want most of our foods to have like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

How do you use Guiding Stars at Giant?

Imagine you’re looking for a tomato sauce for your family at your Giant. In the aisles, you will find dozens of options which makes picking a better-for-you sauce complicated. This is where Guiding Stars can help! A sauce rated one, two, or three stars will be lower in salt and added sugar than sauces without Stars.

Small progressive changes toward bigger goals are best and Guiding Stars is one tool to help you work toward those bigger goals. After all, our shopping cart should reflect our health and wellness goals. A healthy home begins with healthy shopping, and Guiding Stars makes shopping easier.

There are a few things to know about shopping with Guiding Stars:

  • More stars mean more vitamins, minerals, fiber, whole grain, and omega-3 fats with less saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, added salt, added sugar, and artificial colors

  • Companies can’t buy stars—there is no cost to producers for our evaluation

  • Guiding Stars is not a natural and organic program. The algorithm has been built by a scientific advisory panel of experts and thought leaders in the nutrition field who are focused on scientific links between nutrition and health

  • Guiding Stars’ ratings support general nutritional health, so people with specific needs or diets should always review ingredient lists and the Nutrition Facts Panel

Now that you know all about Guiding Stars, check out this Warm Hummus Flatbreads recipe. This recipe is perfect for celebrating National Nutrition Month and receives one Guiding Star!

The Guiding Stars team is here to answer your questions. Contact us, subscribe to our newsletter, view our webinars and follow our blog for the latest nutrition news and Guiding Stars updates.



Garrick Brown, MS, RD, LD
Nutritionist, Guiding Stars Licensing Company


Garrick is a registered dietitian and nutritionist for Guiding Stars Licensing Company. Garrick is passionate about food insecurity and ensuring that all members of our communities have access to nutritious foods. As a new father with less time to shop and cook, he understands the value of easier shopping for nutritious ingredients and healthier meal solutions.




Lucky you! My favorite local beers in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Gentlemen! St. Patrick’s Day is upon us. For some of us, green beer time is upon us—and that’s not an Irish tradition, by the way.

A more authentic celebration might be Irish coffee, a Guinness, or an Irish whisky. Personally, I’m more of a Bourbon drinker. This most likely stems from my days as a barrel-chested freedom fighter. Whiskey and Paratroopers go hand in hand, but I’ll never turn down a good beer. Especially on St. Patrick’s Day!

And this week, I have a few recommendations if you're looking to try something new.

I know—you’re thinking "dietitian? A beer recommendation?" That's right! With one caveat: stick to the Dietary Guidelines. When alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation. That’s up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

In the old days, it was simple—there weren’t nearly as many beer choices as there are now. With the recent explosion of craft beers, it’s almost overwhelming to choose a flavor or a type of beer. But here are a few of my local favorites!

First (out of Baltimore, Maryland) is Heavy Seas Brewing. They make a lot of great options, but I especially like their Peg Leg Stout which is full-bodied and pairs really well with dessert, especially chocolate. I've paired it with The Chocolate Lovers dream cake, which got rave reviews from my team. If you want to add a healthy spin, pair it with the Valentine’s Cake I wrote about in last month’s blog.



Next up is Dogfish Head Brewery out of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. My go-to is the 60 Minute IPA. IPAs can range in flavor from bitter to sweet and the alcohol content can vary widely. With this one, I crave smoky foods like these smoky chicken fajitas.

What, you thought I was going to let you slide on the veggies because we’re talking about beer? Not a chance. Grab a six pack and some precut veggies, and dinner is done! 



My final local favorite comes from Devil's Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Virginia. They offer a variety of lagers, but I'm kinda sweet on the traditional Vienna-style lager.  Generally lighter in body, this pairs well with spicy foods. You could pick up some buffalo chicken wings, but I challenge you to try my new favorite instead—spicy cauliflower bites. It’s the same recipe as traditional wings, just swap chicken wings for roasted cauliflower florets.  (Your heart will thank you.)



Sometimes a story creates loyalty to a particular product. The Devil’s Backbone name is tied to bravery, and that reminded me of the past and present Paratroopers who earned the nickname “Devils in Baggy Pants.” Google it if you’re curious! It’s history worth investigating.

In college, I had the opportunity to sign up for an elective class called “Chemistry of Beer,” which was much more chemistry than beer. I decided I’d rather drink it than examine it at the molecular level. If you want to really hear about beer from an expert, check out the Wines and Beers Worth Celebrating episode of our podcast featuring beer and wine expert Hugh Sisson, founder of Heavy Seas craft beer.

Hugh brought craft breweries to Maryland. Period. He opened the first craft brewery in the state in Federal Hill in Baltimore. He’s got lots to share about beer, including some little-known facts about local brews. Hugh’s best tip is that you can’t go wrong with a variety pack, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Grabbing a local brew this week? Don't forget to take a pic and tag me with #nutritionmadeeasy!

George Baldwin is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about showing guys how to fall in line when it comes to cooking and their health. As a father of three and former paratrooper, he knows the trick to inspire men to cook easy, hearty, and secretly healthy. George will show you the basics on how to train your loved ones to come to the table hungry, whether it’s 0700 or 1900.




What's the Deal with Cannabidiol (CBD)?



Cannabidiol (CBD) has been taking the US by storm since the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018. While hemp-derived CBD (containing less than 0.3% THC) is no longer considered a controlled substance under federal law, regulations vary by state.

Now that it’s legal to buy and sell CBD oil, you might be hearing a variety of claims from retailers and individuals about CBD’s supposed health benefits. It has been promoted for everything from anxiety and acne to depression, joint pain, and poor sleep. It's even marketed for pets!

After hearing testimonials from friends and family, many think "why not give it a try?” Its claims are fantastic, and roughly 14% of Americans have already tried it. But does it live up to the hype?

What is CBD?

Hemp and marijuana are two active components in the Cannabis plant. Both contain chemicals called cannabinoids, which include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). What differentiates them is the psychoactive “high” that’s found in THC. CBD does not have the psychoactive effect of THC.



How it's Made

CBD is concentrated in the flowers of the Cannabis plant. CBD oil is found in both hemp and marijuana, but only CBD-derived from hemp (less than 0.3% THC) is legal in the USA. Once flowers are extracted from the plant, solvents like carbon dioxide or ethanol are used to extract the CBD isolate into a powder. Then, it’s mated to an inert carrier like grapeseed or avocado oil.



How it is Used

It’s not currently legal for companies to add CBD to prepared foods or drinks or label it as a dietary supplement, though retailers and companies have done all the above. CBD does not yet meet the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) standard, meaning there has not been enough research to support its safe and continued use in the forms of edible products or supplements.

It’s currently sold in the form of capsules or tinctures that can be added to beverages or taken sublingually in small doses. You’re free to make your own foods and drinks with CBD extracts.

The Science

Due to the popularity of CBD oil, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working diligently to keep Americans informed about the ongoing science behind the product. Due to the limited data on safety and side effects, the FDA encourages customers to consider potential health risks before taking the product and disregard claims about health benefits, as most are unproven.

Not all of them, though. Research on CBD’s effect on seizures indicated that CBD may decrease or stop seizures in people with two rare forms of epilepsy. The FDA has approved CBD oil in a prescription drug called Epidiolex to manage these symptoms.

Additional research has shown that CBD may lower pain and inflammation in humans. Still, the consensus from doctors and researchers is that there isn't enough information yet, and that more research is needed before declaring it effective for these purposes. With time and research, CBD will be better understood.

Things to Keep in Mind

If you're still curious about CBD, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Most importantly, remember that your friend who raves about CBD is not you—everyone responds to products differently.

Because it’s not yet Generally Recognized as Safe, there is no FDA guidance on dosage for topical and oral use. Some people experience gastrointestinal side effects or changes in mood. CBD can also interact with or decrease the effectiveness of certain medications.

CBD products are also mostly unregulated—they’re legal to sell, but what’s on the label and inside the bottle can be quite different. Products may claim a certain CBD concentration, but not have it (or have more). Other CBD products may have THC or other derivates that aren’t on the label; some have even been found to have pesticides, metals, or no CBD at all.

Check to be sure any CBD product you buy has a third-party certificate of analysis and research brands before purchasing. And be sure to always talk to your medical care provider before starting any over-the-counter substance!

Melanie is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant who is all about evidence-based science! She loves to delve into the latest nutrition craze (or rumor) and get the facts. She sorts through the hype to give you the information you need to make an informed decision about what you see on the news and all over social media.