SAN ANTONIO -

The age-old battle of the bulge is being taken on by 25 Texans chosen by HEB for their new version of the Slim Down Showdown, which expanded this year to include a customer competition. 

Among the contestants are two San Antonio residents that KSAT 12 plans to focus on during the 16-week contest with news stories, their own blogs and slide shows of their progress toward a healthier lifestyle.

Michael Mercado said he will find the challenge particularly difficult because he says he never has shopped for the types of food the HEB dietician is now recommending.

His family struggled financially, so they relied on food donations to fill their pantry.

“We had to go to local food banks. I remember my parents coming home with boxes and a lot of bread, pastries, sweets, and close-to-expired balogna. That’s what we ate and it wasn’t good for us,” he said.

When HEB offered the contestants $200 in free food for a pantry makeover this week, he knew to meet his weekly food plan he would have to go into the produce and meat aisles with a different mindset.

“These are foods I like, but didn’t really eat, because I didn’t think they were convenient. Now I realize that we have to take control of our lives and plan (and) prioritize,” Mercado said.

That means staying away from already seasoned, fatty meats and relying on prime cuts flavored with vegetables instead.

For Dina Lopez, the challenge will be taken on not just for her, but for the whole family.

Her young daughter was just diagnosed with pre-diabetes and she feels all six members of the Lopez clan need to do this together. That means breaking some long-standing traditions at mealtime.

“I grew up in a family where you just served yourself and you ate as much as you possibly wanted. Portion size is something that I’m going to struggle with,” she said.

Lopez says she plans to begin cooking more and picking up take out food much less often.

But Dina has already picked up on some valuable lessons on what to cook as well.

She warned that while comparing 99 percent fat-free turkey meat and the 85 percent lean variety, “You might think you are eating healthy because I’m eating turkey, but if you’re not eating the correct turkey, then you are eating more fat and calories than lean ground beef.”

The contestants are learning about exercise as well, participating in a Zumba class and other fitness experiences that will help them reach their weight and health goals at the end of the 16-week contest.

KSAT 12 will be following closely along, and encourage our viewers to learn from their experiences in making changes that can ensure longer, healthier lives.