Surrounded By Food, Supermarket Dietitians to the Rescue
As a registered dietitian I’m juggling a few things each day. But for every one of the tasks and projects I’m working on, I focus on sharing as much info as I can, advocating wise nutrition choices and living well. The dictionary defines dietitian as a person whose job is to give people advice about what to eat in order to be healthy. We provide advice, counsel and encouragement in a variety of venues.
Traditionally dietitians have worked with health care professionals in hospitals or rehabilitation sites. Today you can find dietitians in many settings; in fact I see what I’ll call the flashback trend. This is the current trend to return these healthcare professionals to supermarkets—organizations that previously included registered dietitians on their staffs. They dropped off the organizational charts when numbers crunchers viewed their duties as one of the places to cut costs.
As interest has exploded in the food-health connection supermarket decision makers see the value in having dietitians on staff; there are now more than 500 dietitians working with retail food stores. Their expertise is beneficial to grocery store shoppers and to the store’s financial health. These in-store health ambassadors are key in helping to educate shoppers about foods, fresh produce, new products and their options for nutritious choices. These dietitians conduct supermarket tours, breakdown food label info, teach cooking classes, link food selections to dietary needs, and serve as store representatives at community health fairs and well-being events.
The supermarket tours for both children and adults create great opportunities to share nutrition education and generate excitement about making nutritious choices. With kids’ tours the dietitians make it fun, helping them learn about foods and why they are good for them. With adults dietitians help challenged shoppers navigate store aisles strategically armed with guidelines about how to shop for well-being by increasing fiber intake, adding more fruit and vegetables to their market baskets and choosing health-orientated pantry items. With a well-stocked well-being pantry the savvy shopper can easily create quick healthy meals and pack good-for-you lunches.
When physicians or healthcare professionals advise people to make changes in their lifestyle and eating habits, people may hear what they say, but putting it into practice can be a different story. With dietitians in the store, people may know them and already have a cordial relationship. This familiarity can make it easier to seek and take advice on how to make the recommended changes. These dietitians can also lend their expertise by helping shoppers make wholesome choices yet stay within their food budgets. It is often reported that budgeting and healthy eating are incompatible. The fact of the matter is that these constraints require pre-planning, making sure that weekly menu plans are linked, to use ingredients for more than one meal.
I’m always glad to see my supermarket colleagues; I know they too are carrying the banner for health and well-being. It’s rewarding to know that these grocery aisle ambassadors are helping keep the good health story top-of-mind, especially at a location where everyone is surrounded by food!
Take Away: Get to know your supermarket dietitians. They provide advice counsel and encouragement helping people choose healthier food for their grocery carts.