The Rise of the Supermarket Nutritionist
More and more grocery stores are now offering services from registered dietitians.
There's a dietitian in the house — well, in your local grocery store, that is! More and more supermarkets are hiring registered dietitians, and these nutrition experts can help with anything from helping you choose nutritious food to providing a personalized nutrition consultation. Many of these services are free. "Our country is becoming more and more aware of the importance of not only preventive care but of how food and nutrition can play a role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle," says Heather Steele, RD, a dietitian at Reasor's in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Retailers are responding by providing supermarket RDs to help shoppers more easily make choices toward a healthier lifestyle.
Wondering about the services your local grocery store dietitian offers? Here's a peek at what you might expect.
You no longer have to search and search the grocery shelves for healthy options. Many stores showcase dietitians' handpicked suggestions in a designated area of the store (at ShopRite, these are called the "Dietitian's Nook"). "We meet with product manufacturers to review new items and are able to feature those products that fit our health and wellness profile," says Dana McLaughlin, RD, manager of health and wellness at Inserra Supermarket ShopRite in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Don't be afraid to pop into the dietitian's office for a quick question. "We help consumers sort through recommendations they may receive at their doctor's office but are unsure of how to implement while shopping," says Steele. Customers ask for help with anything from creating shopping lists to deciphering food labels, sorting through confusing nutrition news, and talking through how to prepare nutritious meals.
You don't have to go to a fancy culinary school for a cooking class! Many grocery stores offer culinary workshops on topics ranging from eating stem to root and cooking with seasonal ingredients. At ShopRite, for instance, McLaughlin notes that professional chefs partner with in-store dietitians to create a hands-on experience resulting in a full meal. These workshops cost $20 per person.
Not sure how to choose a healthy bread? Or feel really confused by all the options in the dairy aisle? Request a personal shopping tour with your supermarket's dietitian. While this service is free at some stores, Steele says Reasor's charges a nominal $10 fee.
"Supermarket RDs know that nothing is healthy if people don't eat it, and they bring their love of delicious food that supports your health to their work," says Ellie Wilson, MS, RDN, senior nutritionist at the Price Chopper group of supermarkets in Schenectady, New York.
At many grocery stores, you can schedule a one-on-one consult with a dietitian. While McLaughlin says that consultations are free of charge at ShopRite, Steele notes a $75 fee for a one-hour consultation. At H-E-B stores in Texas, that fee is $85. "My private consultation would be what you would expect to receive from any other outpatient dietitian, just in a grocery store!" says Steele.
"Customers who are newly diagnosed or want to manage or reduce risk of health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or food allergies can benefit from our services," says McLaughlin. If you have a specialized need, such as if you're a dialysis patient, the in-store dietitian may need to refer you out.