Nutrition Education in the Supermarket

September 21, 2012

From the upcoming issue of Food, Nutrition and Science, guest columnist and dietitian, Jennifer Egeland, discusses how the supermarket is a great place to teach nutrition.

Guest columnist, Jennifer Egeland, MS, RD, LD

What better place is there to teach nutrition than in the aisles of the supermarket? It is the one place that education can happen while the consumers are actually making purchase decisions and have all the options in front of them. There are countless ways to help consumers make healthy choices in the supermarket. Balls Food Stores/Hen House Markets is making an effort to educate consumers and their families.

I am passionate about child nutrition education. Hen House Markets has offered free nutrition education tours since 2007 through the Field Trip Factory “Be a Smart Shopper” program. The program teaches how to eat from the MyPlate, how to make healthy food choices, lets kids taste test healthy foods and gives them educational material to take home. This is a fun program and lets kids explore the healthy foods in the store while encouraging healthy habits and exercise.

There are many disease states that are affected by nutrition, such as diabetes, heart health and obesity. Customers, who are newly diagnosed, often feel overwhelmed and confused about food choices. Our dietitians work with our pharmacy and chefs to help educate customers. We have chef and dietitian cooking classes that combine a themed cooking class with nutrition education from the dietitian. Themes have included the Mediterranean Diet, Gluten Freedom and Low Carb Cooking for Diabetes. This is a great way to have an on-hands cooking experience with nutrition education. Our pharmacy has been involved with some monthly highlighted nutrition education displays and screenings. Getting our pharmacies involved lets the customers know we have additional health care professionals on staff that can be another resource for them.

Reaching out to the community is another way to provide education. Our dietitians will go out into the community and provide education through health fairs, lunch-n-learns and speak at schools and church groups. It is a great way to show the community what our stores have to offer while educating the public. Social media – and our website – is also an important tool in education. Social media is a fun way to introduce customers to products, events and education. It is a fast paced tool that takes dedication to keep content interesting and fresh. Using our print ad and product displays in the stores is another way to give information to the customers while they shop. It is an easy way to tie health information and tips to foods that are on sale in the store.

Providing classes and tours in the stores is a great way to get customers acquainted with your stores while providing education. Topics can range from gluten free, diabetes, eating from MyPlate, portion control and healthy snacks. People enjoy having a Dietitian near them as you explore the aisles, looking at and comparing products they want to purchase for their family. I think this is an effective way to help people adapt to a new healthier lifestyle while giving them the knowledge to make food choices and understand the basis for those decisions.

Whether you are the sole dietitian or one of many that works for a supermarket, there are countless ways to educate your staff and customers in your stores!

Jennifer Egeland, MS, RD, LD, is the Dietitian/Natural Food Buyer for Balls Foods Stores/Hen House Markets/Price Chopper Markets. She has been a Supermarket Dietitian for over 12 years. Jennifer is involved in every aspect of overseeing the 17 Health and Naturals departments for the company, including category management, new item placement, resets, promotions and advertising. She is also involved in creating teammate wellness programs and nutrition education tours of the stores. Jennifer is a member of the American Dietetic Association, Kansas City Dietetics Association and the Missouri Dietetics Association.

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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