The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Eat What You Want and Stay Healthy

Eat What You Want and Stay Healthy

Dietitian Dialogues

June 29, 2008

 One thing that all retailers can agree on is that healthy lifestyles are on consumers’ minds. Not only do consumers want to know what healthy options are available at their grocery store, but they also want to know how to prepare these foods while still obtaining the most economic options.
The main focus of a supermarket health and wellness program can be to offer customers practical nutrition and lifestyle information that is easy to apply to everyday life; incorporating balance, moderation, variety and enjoyment. It is important to help consumers understand that you are not attempting to overhaul their diet, but instead teaching simple steps to achieve wellness. It is all about incorporating a wide variety of foods into the diet.
Fad diets, which typically encourage severe restrictions on certain foods, are not only nutritionally inadequate, but they can actually encourage the development of unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes about food. There is no such thing as a “bad” food, and this is something I try to teach all of my consumers through store tours and written communications.
Manufactures are also jumping on board and changing their products to reflect trends and the needs of their consumers. With the obesity and overweight rate at an all time high, there has been an explosion of portion-controlled items – such as “100 calorie” packs. Portion controlled foods are meant to help customers keep the foods they love in their diet without overindulging. 
Another "better-for-you” trend is the reformulation of many food brands to “whole-grains.” Manufacturers recognize that consumers are educating themselves on nutrition. Therefore, having a whole grain option will help them stay competitive in the marketplace. 
More recently, the elimination of trans fat has taken the country by storm, with actual bans in certain states. Food manufacturers do not have much choice here. That’s why it is crucial that they make every effort to remove such fats from their products. 
Addressing consumer needs in this way is at the always top of my mind as a Registered Dietitian. Through my health and wellness program, “Healthy Steps” I provide consumers the information they need to make the best decisions when shopping in our stores.
This information driven initiative profiles various health trends and topics through newsletters, community programs and in-store product promotions. I am positioned to be available through local media, community outreach programs, advertising vehicles, and other in-store programs.
In addition, consumers can write in and ask me a nutrition related question, which I guarantee a personal response to. I think this is an important element because consumers want to feel special and they want to know that there is a real person behind a health and wellness program.
Having a Registered Dietitian on staff can help to educate your consumers on the ever-expanding product list and the ever changing information they hear in the media. Supermarket driven health and wellness programs can not only provide this much desired education, but also increase sales. It is a win-win for all!
Jacqueline Gomes, RD, MBA, is the corporate dietitian for Pathmark Stores, addressing the needs of Pathmark shoppers through nutrition research, newsletters and circulars. Gomes is also extremely active in promoting nutrition education to communities throughout New Jersey by providing public speaking, health fairs and one-on-one counseling.  

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at