Dietitians in Supermarkets: The New Age of Nutrition

March 29th, 2011

When people ask where I work and I tell them Hy-Vee, I tend to get a lot of confused looks. I am asked, do you help customers find items? Do you help people lose weight? Do you stock shelves? What do you do there? I do all the above, but there is not a simple, one-line answer to this question.

Supermarkets started to hire dietitians about ten years ago when they realized there is a connection between consumer supermarket shopping and healthy food choices. Many customers do not what to look for in a healthy food item when they go grocery shopping. Food labeling is very confusing and often misleading. One particular food item might claim that it is lwo in fat,  but unbeknownst to the customer is jam-packed with sugar. Another food product might claim to help boost your immune system, but how true is that and to what extent? Customers need someone credible who can answer these questions when they are in the store.

Physicians and other medical experts are also realizing the benefits of proper nutrition in preventing and managing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, weight control and cancer. Patients will see a dietitian in a clinical setting (hospital or clinic) and receive great information from the dietitian, but when it comes to actually putting this into practice in a grocery store they can be confused or come up with additional questions as they are shopping.

To answer the question ‘what do you do at Hy-Vee?’, here is a brief list:

  • Answer customer questions about the best foods to help with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
  • Lead healthy cooking classes in our Club Room
  • Provide private nutrition counseling in the store
  • Guide store tours that focus on a particular condition, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • Answer questions about the HealthMarket and gluten-free living
  • Reach out to the community to spread nutrition awareness (if you have a first- or second grader at Prairie Elementary, your child probably knows who I am!)
  • Provide lunch-and-learns for groups or companies on their topic of choice
  • Conduct cholesterol and glucose screenings in the store (you will receive your results in fifteen minutes!)

This is not a comprehensive list because I am always adding to it, but I hope it gives you an idea of what I do at Hy-Vee.

As a Hy-Vee dietitian, I appreciate the unique opportunity to help customers in a hands-on approach to meet their nutritional goals. Hy-Vee has over 100 dietitians working in their stores and is leading the way for other major retailers and supermarkets, which are following suit and hiring dietitians as they see customers place importance on proper nutrition.  If you ever have a nutrition question in our store, know that I am there to answer it!

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