As my family’s regular grocery shopper, I make the weekly trek to the store, fill the cart with all the staples and trusty standbys, bring everything home, and in a week, it’s wash, rinse, repeat. I feel as though I could do it in my sleep. Plus, I know the store like the back of my hand, which makes the experience nearly robotic. As such, and given my lack of culinary talent, my family often eats the same old, same old. However, my eyes were opened to the power of possibility when I took a stroll through Kroger with a dietitian at my side.
As part of their Wellness Your Way program, Kroger has a host of nutrition offerings for shoppers, some of which are free and/or covered by insurance. This includes nutrition counseling as well as the opportunity to shop with a dietitian from Kroger’s Little Clinic. Intrigued, I downloaded Kroger’s OptUP app, and lined up an appointment with dietitian Anna Smith, MS, RDN, LDN, at the Green Hills Kroger. (SB TIP: OptUP is a new digital tool that gamifies your Kroger visits by scoring your food purchases — the healthier the food, the higher the number, and higher numbers keep your meter in the green zone. You can opt up from red to yellow and yellow to green. Download the app and try it out. If you make less healthy selections, it will offer better options within the same realm of what you’re looking for.) With Anna by my side, we walked the store, I got educated, and my family is now enjoying some fresh options from my weekly shopping trip. Here’s what to expect — and why you should experience this opportunity …
When you get to your appointment, you’ll spend a few minutes talking with the dietitian about your goals. “A majority of my clients want to lose weight or have medical issues, like diabetes or high cholesterol, or they may have digestive issues that require a special diet,” explains Anna. And with those special circumstances or goals come challenges in finding a new way to eat and/or cook, but whatever your goal, the dietitian can then get a better idea of what sorts of foods can be introduced or added into your dietary intake to make shifting your diet easier. “Dietitians are often stereotyped as telling people what not to eat, but it’s actually the opposite. We want to equip people with foods that they can eat,” Anna says.
During this time, you’ll also be introduced to the MyPlate approach to eating, which is the United States Department of Agriculture’s program that’s designed to make eating the appropriate amount of proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables easier. Every client who shops with a dietitian receives a plastic plate to take home that illustrates the appropriate allotment of food from each group that can be consumed at each of your three daily meals. “The MyPlate program helps increase fruit and vegetable consumption while also controlling portions and giving my clients the balanced nutrition they desire at both meals and snacks,” explains Anna.
My goal during my time with Anna was to get some healthy ideas for low- and no-cook meals that are easy to pull together, offer variety and skew healthier. With that in mind, and after a brief tutorial on the MyPlate approach, we headed out into the store, Anna with a clipboard in-hand for jotting down various foods we’d discover throughout the store. The list she creates while shopping with her clients serves as a cheat sheet of sorts that they can refer back to as needed on future grocery shopping trips.
We started down the frozen aisle, hit the back wall of yogurt (so. much. yogurt!), cruised through meat and then popped in and out of several other aisles that held products she felt would be of interest to me based on my goals. “I like to point out things that you may not see if you’re just shopping like usual,” Anna says.
As we meandered throughout the store, she casually dispensed insight and ideas. For example, she reminded me that if I continue to buy fresh produce that goes bad before it’s eaten, I should consider buying frozen veggies instead — quick, easy, fresh when frozen, and they won’t go bad. “Plus, frozen veggies score very high in the OptUP app,” Anna adds. Plus there are lots of great frozen fruit and veggie options packing some serious nutritional punch!
Other pointers include if you’re looking to up your protein, select Greek yogurt instead of regular. If you’re going to splurge, do so with your meats, opting for the leanest option available … unless you want a burger — then the lean meat will be too dry once cooked. And who knew that chickpea pasta was a thing? It’s a great alternative to regular pasta with fewer carbs.
Anna also offered several meal ideas that even I could pull together for my family — quickly and easily. In fact, I left feeling inspired to try the new ideas and to seek out additional options now that I had a cheat sheet in hand. “I just try to help people rethink the basics,” Anna says. And that she did.
As we wrapped up our time, I asked Anna what she thought the biggest benefit to shopping with a dietitian is. She replied, “Eating healthy does not have to be complicated. Our goal is to help people learn something, feel educated and make smarter choices.”
Shopping with a dietitian is $20 per half-hour visit. SB TIP: Sometimes sponsors underwrite the cost of the service, making it free to Kroger customers.
Kroger’s Wellness Your Way program is a complete package of tools to help with nutrition, medication and lifestyle. Services include shopping with a dietitian, pharmacy vaccinations (including travel vaccines), healthy recipes and, of course, the OptUP app.
This article is sponsored by Kroger.