From Grocery Aisles to Healthier Lives. The Power of Dietary Education

Picture this: You’re walking down the aisle of your favorite grocery store, a supermarket dietitian at your side, educating you about the nutritional value of the food products you’re about to purchase. Sounds far-fetched? A recent study from the University of Cincinnati indicates that this scenario is not only feasible but can also lead to healthier, longer lives.

1. Your In-Store Guides to Better Health

The groundbreaking study, known as Supermarket and Web-Based Intervention Targeting Nutrition (SuperWIN), explores a novel approach to dietary education: direct, individualized counseling from dietitians based right in your local supermarket. This strategic placement ensures that nutritional guidance is easily accessible and immediately applicable.

Before we delve deeper into the study’s intriguing findings, it’s important to understand its structure. The SuperWIN study was a collaborative effort involving the University of Cincinnati, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and Kroger Health—the healthcare division of the Kroger Co.

2. The Impact of In-Store Dietitians

So, how does having a dietitian guide your grocery shopping impact your health? According to the study’s findings, the influence is considerable. In-store, one-on-one educational tours conducted by supermarket-based dietitians significantly improved participants’ dietary quality. This effect was continuous, meaning the more education the participants received, the better their diets became.

But the benefits didn’t stop at the supermarket’s exit. The study also found that training on online shopping, home delivery, and nutrition apps further boosted dietary quality.

3. Supermarkets as Health Care Venues

If you thought that grocery stores were just about food, think again. The SuperWIN study reveals their untapped potential as unconventional yet effective health care venues. The retail industry—especially supermarkets—can expand the reach of traditional health care systems, offering accessibility, convenience, and a customer-focused approach.

For widespread health issues like poor dietary quality and rising obesity rates, these everyday establishments may offer an ideal environment for delivering dietary education interventions. This might sound like a lofty claim, but SuperWIN has the evidence to back it up: it’s the first clinical trial to be successfully conducted in a partnership between academic researchers and a large supermarket chain.

4. A Community Approach to Health

The SuperWIN study was the result of years of work to investigate new ways to improve food purchase habits and dietary quality. The study, conducted within Kroger supermarkets, involved 247 UC Health primary care patients with at least one cardiovascular risk factor—obesity, hypertension, or high cholesterol.

Each participant began the study with a medical nutrition therapy session with a Kroger Health dietitian. From there, they were divided into three study groups.

The data showed that participants who worked directly with a Kroger Health dietitian for on-site, individualized education and shopping practice saw a higher increase in their adherence to a DASH diet—a dietary pattern designed to combat hypertension—compared to the control group.

5. Cincinnati Children’s Contributions

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital played a crucial role in managing the data, conducting statistical analysis, and interpreting the study results. Their Schubert Research Clinic carried out dietary intake interviews with participants at the beginning of the study and after three and six months.

Information from these interviews was used to estimate the participants’ usual food and nutrition intake and observe any changes that occurred by the end of the study. These steps were essential in evaluating the effectiveness of the SuperWIN intervention.

6. The Future of Grocery Shopping

So, what do the SuperWIN findings mean for you, the average grocery shopper? They highlight the positive influence that retail dietitians can have on individuals trying to make healthier choices. They also emphasize the unique role that grocery stores can play in simplifying healthful decisions.

The collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and Kroger Health might well be paving the way for a transformation in how people approach grocery shopping, shifting the focus more towards health.

7. Leveraging Technology

The SuperWIN trial also examined the effect of online shopping, home grocery delivery, and nutrition apps in conjunction with in-store, personalized, purchasing data-guided education, and shopping practice. Participants who were trained by the Kroger Health dietitians on these tools demonstrated even greater adherence to the DASH diet.

8. Your Path to Healthier Eating Starts at the Grocery Store

With the successful completion of the SuperWIN study, we’re looking at a potentially transformative approach to dietary education. With dietitians playing an active role in our grocery shopping experience, better health may be as accessible as the nearest supermarket aisle.

The SuperWIN study isn’t just a win for the scientific community—it’s a win for anyone looking to lead a healthier life. So next time you’re planning your grocery trip, remember: the journey to better health doesn’t just start in the kitchen—it starts right in the aisles of your local supermarket.

Dylan L. Steen, Robert N. Helsley, Deepak L. Bhatt, Eileen C. King, Suzanne S. Summer, Matthew Fenchel, Brian E. Saelens, Mark H. Eckman, Sarah C. Couch. Efficacy of supermarket and web-based interventions for improving dietary quality: a randomized, controlled trial. Nature Medicine, 2022; 28 (12): 2530 Link