College of Public Health and Human Sciences nutrition students learned that the recipe for a healthy diet includes simple, economical and nutritious foods. Two groups of juniors and seniors toured Corvallis’ WinCo with Registered Dietitian Shari Steinbach, the Healthy Living Manager for Meijer, a Midwest supermarket chain in Grand Rapids, Mich. She shared her knowledge of consumer education with the groups as they walked through the store.
The students participated in the training as part of a Produce for Better Health grant, which is designed to prepare future nutrition experts to conduct their own tours for consumers as they make point-of-purchase decisions in the supermarket. Initially, the trained students will be giving tours to other students taking the HHS 231 Lifetime Fitness course. WinCo partnered with OSU Dietetics to allow students to train and give tours at the Walnut and Kings location.
“Ultimately the goal is to have the student-run Nutrition & Dietetics Club take over the program,” CPHHS Clinical Assistant Professor and Dietetic Program Director Neilann Horner says. “Tour messages will eventually be tailored to various audiences such as moms of preschool children, school-aged children and retirees. Point-of-purchase education is an important public health intervention that can support behavior change toward optimal health.”
As the group made its way through the various departments at WinCo, Shari gave them helpful tips and nutritional information, including:
- Five colors/five cups – colors that equate to nutrients are red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple and white. Eat five cups of fruits and vegetables (two fruit, three vegetable) each day.
- Five ways to get fruits and vegetables – fresh, canned, frozen, dried and 100 percent fruit juice.
- Dressings – a variety of healthier versions are now available in refrigerator sections, including yogurt based options.
- Canned fruits and vegetables – these are a good, economical option. Nutrients are sealed in at time of canning, and they have a long shelf life.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables – another economical option, and nutrients remain because they are frozen right away. Good choice for out-of-season varieties. Good for one year if they remain frozen.
- Save even more – consumers can save money when they buy the store brand and shop in the bulk bin section.
At the end of each tour, students sampled foods that they may not have been familiar with. Edamame (soy beans), dried apricots, a 100 percent fruit juice blend of vegetables and fruits, frozen mango and garbanzo beans were passed around.
Lasting impressions for students
“It was more in depth than I thought it would be,” student Amanda Nash says. “The opportunities to bring real value to the grocery industry and consumers as a registered dietitian are much more substantial than I realized.”
“Most people just need simple solutions to help them make healthier choices,” student Caroline Hansen says. “It doesn’t have to be complicated.”
Several other students found the key message that all foods can fit into a healthy diet to be refreshing. Most times they are overwhelmed with the typical lists of “don’t eat this.”
Preparing the next generation
“These tours help get our students’ skills up to where they are marketable professionals,” Neilann says. “The nutrition messaging here is inclusive and practical but requires a considerable amount of critical thinking as a professional.”
“People are choosing foods based on value judgements that are not necessarily related to the nutritional content. Some classroom facts about foods and their production are true but clinically irrelevant on the background of the typical American diet. ‘More matters’ is the main theme of this year’s tours aligned with the evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables of any kind has been associated with lower risk for many chronic diseases. Shari offered great perspective as she encouraged students to get in the practice of selling healthy solutions to the typical road blocks consumers face when tasked with putting together a meal.”
The grocery store trainings were just one of several events the college hosted related to the launch of the OSU Nutrition and Dietetics Service Learning Program. It also hosted several presentations for professional registered dietitians in Corvallis and community food leaders. Topics included the importance of collaboration between retail dietitians, health organizations, non-profits and media; the role of a registered dietitian nutritionist in a retail setting; and creating successful cooking demonstrations that support nutrition education.