What Do Grocery Store Dietitians Think About Nutrition?

If Vanessa can’t be found in the grocery store teaching kids how to cook, or leading tours of the store you’ll probably find her working on her MBA.  In the past, Vanessa has spearheaded a campaign aimed at improving school lunches in New Brunswick when it came to light that most school lunches in New Brunswick were failing to meet the needs of children. Vanessa has a well-rounded opinion that I respect, she’s worked in long term care, private practice and in grocery stores. Vanessa is a Registered Dietitian with Loblaw’s (think Superstore) who graduated in Nova Scotia from Mount Saint Vincent University.

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RD’s in grocery stores have a unique role. Their scope of practice can range from cooking lessons and grocery store tours to nutrition consultations for chronic disease and helping with labels for food allergies. The dynamic role of RDs in grocery stores makes every day a little different from the next for those working in the area.

So Vanessa, what is your favorite food that other people might consider to be unhealthy?
It’s funny because dark chocolate is probably what people expect to hear from a dietitian! It’s chocolate and I actually prefer the flavor of dark chocolate to milk chocolate.

What do you think the biggest barriers our population faces for healthy eating are?
I think the accessibility of unhealthy foods and the perceived [or the real] higher cost of healthy items. Also, the marketing of unhealthy foods makes choosing healthy foods difficult. Navigating grocery stores has become difficult, retail dietitians are needed more than ever!

Do you think one person can make a difference in public health policy change?
I think one person can but with any change that person needs to be a leader to champion that change. So it can start with one person but then that person needs help from others.

You’ve told me about barriers to healthy eating and that one person may be able to influence others to help make a change. What about the change? Do you think the government should be focusing on anything specific within the realm of public health or policy?
Accessibility to dietitians would be nice but it isn’t all about us is it?
There is a lot of work to be done. From my experience, I believe the implementation and evaluation of nutrition policies are just as important as the policy document itself.

If you could get a message out to the public about food or nutrition, what would it be?
Try to keep it simple! We’ve overcomplicated – just eat whole and nourishing foods.

If you were going to be stuck on an island for months and you could bring an unlimited supply of 4 foods, what would they be?
Well, obviously chocolate. Then I’d choose yogurt, frozen raspberries and I think my last choice would be sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes. Those four foods might change next week but right now they’re my top choices.

What is your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
Either a Thai dish or pizza. I love both.

What is your day to day breakfast?
Oats, plain Greek yogurt, and frozen berries. I let the berries sit overnight in the fridge to defrost so all the juices come out and then use them to sweeten my yogurt naturally. On occasion, I might have whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana. On weekends, I like to have pancakes and fruit for something different!

Do you try to eat meat free at all?
I’d say I eat meat free twice per week.

Does your job get in the way of what you eat?
I don’t feel it does. I’m lucky that I have flexibility with my hours and I make my own schedule. If I’m working late at night, I cook in the morning. So no, I don’t let my work get in the way of my healthy eating.

Who is your favorite person to cook with?
Without a doubt it is my husband, he’s a great cook (better than me, actually!)

If you could cook a meal with anyone, who would it be? 
I’d choose Gordon Ramsay. I think he’s probably a sweet guy off camera.

That’s my dream, Vanessa!
I’ve seen your food pictures they’re really good so maybe it’ll happen!

Thanks, I really hope I can someday …

If you could sit down to a meal with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
My Mom. I’d love to have dinner or cook with my Mom again.

Thanks for your time Vanessa!

You can follow Vanessa on twitter or visit Vanessa in person at Atlantic Superstore Saint John, KV Market, Millidgeville, Sussex and St Stephen, NB.

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