Sometimes it really does feel like I have a crystal ball. For example, I gave a speech over two decades ago and predicted some future happenings in the supermarket industry, and now one of them is happening!
I’m referring to the “sudden” focus and presence of registered dietitian nutritionists, or RDNs, in supermarkets.
Back in 1994, I referred to RDNs as “consumer relations specialists.” I predicted that supermarkets would soon employ consumer relations specialists who would make sure supermarkets were focusing on the needs of their shoppers, instead of just selling food in their stores.
Fast-forward to 2015, and it seems as if almost every supermarket chain offers the services of an RDN either in individual stores or at its corporate offices. Of course with the current obesity crisis, offering nutritional counseling and recommendations for healthy choices at no charge for shoppers is a win-win.
Just a few weeks ago, a produce industry organization, the Produce for Better Health Foundation, held its annual conference. It was so exciting to see that many retailers have RDNs and to see that these young (predominantly) women have so much enthusiasm for their positions and the difference they can make.Left to right: Kayla Womeldorff of Harmons Grocery Stores; Dani Lebovitz with Robins Air Force Base; Erin Dragutsky with the Transformation Center in Memphis; and Lindsey Kane of Whole Foods.
The conference provided many opportunities for people to network and chat. We learned quite a few new things by meeting with RDNs in attendance:
Nutrient-dense vs. Energy-dense
Nutrient-dense foods give you the most nutrients for the fewest calories. Fruits and vegetables are definitely nutrient-dense. On the other hand, energy-dense foods are high in calories and do not have many nutrients. The “empty calorie” foods you keep hearing about would be considered energy-dense.
The concept that educated shoppers will spend their food budget on foods that address their health and wellness priorities.
This was a new word for me! Orthorexia is being proposed as a new eating disorder: extreme preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy and a fixation on food quality and purity. Orthorexia is not just being conscious about what you eat, such as going gluten-free or vegan. It’s when that consideration turns into an obsession and starts to affect your life. An example might be cancelling social events due to the fear of accidentally eating something “unhealthy.” Coincidentally, CBS news featured a story on this over the weekend as well.
Clearly, the RDNs are making an impact in supermarkets around the country. I’m not sure if they are able affect store merchandising decisions like moving candy away from the check stands to curb impulse buying, or adding more fruits and vegetables to store newspaper or online ads, but I am sure those subjects and many more are very much on their minds.
I’ve often wondered if First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of eliminating obesity in one generation is possible. Well, with the brain power of these women, I think we have a good shot at it.
Here’s to our good health!