MATTHEWS, N.C. — Facebook chats, online forums and gift card giveaways are among the tools being used to encourage interaction with store dietitians.
Consumers who post a comment on Harris Teeter’s “Ask Beth” Facebook column are entered to win a $25 gift card. Dietitian Beth Avery reads all questions then selects one to answer online. The person whose question is chosen gets a $25 Harris Teeter gift card.
“Looking for some guidance on good nutrition and healthy eating habits?” Harris Teeter writes in promotional materials. “We’ve got your answers.”
Harris Teeter declined to comment.
Among the top questions Avery answers, according to the Harris Teeter website:
• Which fish has the most health-related benefits, and how often should we eat fish? Avery’s response, in part: “You should include in your diet Wild Alaskan Salmon. This particular fish provides many health benefits because it’s high in omega-3 fat.”
• How can I control my cholesterol through diet? Avery’s answer: “Eat foods like oats, fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, and nuts and beans. Avoid foods high in saturated fat like red meat, butter and cheese.”
Avery is one of a growing number of food retail dietitians who have become more visible thanks to Facebook and other social and online media.
Three dietitians at Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa, run the retailer’s new online Health & Wellness forum. More will be added as usage increases.
As reported, the company’s IT department has set up an email notification system that alerts the group whenever a new query or comment is posted.
Topics are divided into four sections: special diets, fitness wellness, lifestyle and “other.” Within each section are a variety of topics, from gluten-free, heart health, food allergies, exercise and organic foods to vegetarian lifestyles.
About 240 comments have been posted since the forum launched over the summer.
Most questions have been on the topics of cholesterol, diabetes and gluten-free eating, according to Jamie Jarvis, a Health Forum dietitian who is based in Hy-Vee’s Independence, Mo., store.
“Many customers are seeking meal ideas that are appropriate for their particular health condition,” Jarvis told SN.
Users can benefit from the responses to other people’s questions, Jarvis said.
The forum comes at a time when shoppers are seeking to improve their health through food and nutrition.
“As this demand increases, more people need the help of dietitians to interpret this information and apply it to their lives,” Jarvis said.
The health forum is designed to be a convenient place for customers to receive guidance from in-store dietitians, added Alexandra Economy (left), a Health Forum dietitian who works in Hy-Vee’s Winona, Minn., store.
“Consumers can receive food and nutrition guidance from a Hy-Vee registered dietitian through the forum instead of having to travel to a Hy-Vee store,” Economy said.
However, Economy often encourages users to visit with their local Hy-Vee dietitian for more individualized advice.
Popular topics discussed on the health and wellness forum correspond well with topics that Economy addresses at store level, including gluten-free, diabetes and heart health.
Last month, Price Chopper hosted a two-hour Facebook chat with Ellie Wilson, its senior nutritionist.
Wilson responded to questions about gluten-free living, weight control, and heart-healthy foods. Among the questions: “Is store-bought hummus healthy?”
Wilson’s response: “Store-bought hummus is a good choice. It has great fiber, healthy oils and delicious spices.”
“Will adding a tablespoon of cocoa powder to my cup of coffee once or twice a day give me the benefits of eating chocolate?”
Wilson’s response, in part: “Adding a tablespoon of cacao powder to your cup of coffee is a fun and smart idea.”