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04/11/2016

Beyond Fresh

Through all of my years working as a registered dietitian and director in the grocery industry, it always bothered me to hear a nutrition professional advising clients to “shop the perimeter of the store.”

While there are certainly many nutritious options sold on the perimeter — fresh produce, fresh fish, eggs, lean meats and reduced-fat dairy, for example — iced bakery cakes and seasonal candy are typically sold on the perimeter, too.

Back in 1995, I started offering guided shopping tours for consumers to point out nutritious options sold throughout the grocery store, including in center store. Since then, interest in health and wellness has gained considerable momentum due to consumers’ increasing desire to live longer, healthier lives. The current 2015–20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize following a healthy lifelong eating pattern, along with regular physical activity to help reduce the risk of chronic disease. The fact is, many of the nutrient-dense foods that appear in The U.S., Mediterranean and Vegetarian Healthy Eating Patterns can be found right in center store grocery aisles.

Decades ago, grocery shoppers stocked their home pantries with foods to make home-cooked meals. Today, fewer shoppers are stocking up because they view the local grocery store as a direct extension of their own pantries. While some consumers are still willing to prepare meals at home, advanced meal planning is on the decline, with a whopping 63 percent of eating occasions being decided within just one hour of consumption.

Retail dietitians can provide consumers with meal ideas that are quick, easy, delicious and nutritious. One way to encourage a resurgence of pantry stocking is through the national campaign Cans Get You Cooking. This canned-food campaign offers wholesome recipes that span all meal categories, from appetizers, salads, soups and chili, to main dishes, sandwiches, sides and desserts. Or you can develop your own unique healthy-stock-up campaigns that feature “fit-friendly” frozen foods or “health-on-the-shelf” nonperishable items to tie into recipes.

Provide your shoppers with enticing meal ideas through timely social media posts delivered at mealtime and featuring appetizing recipes and appealing imagery, or short cooking videos. Support these messages in-store with related signage, samplings, promotions and displays, and offer dietitian-led store tours to help consumers find healthful meal ingredient staples throughout the aisles.

Offer dietitian-led store tours to help consumers find healthful meal ingredient staples throughout the aisles.