An image of a woman in a grocery store aisle

How to Start a Supermarket Tour (A Guide for Dietitians)

So, you want to start a supermarket tour for your patients/clients? That is awesome!

Supermarket tours are a great way to provide a real-world experience for your clients.  Whether they are looking for heart healthy options or just wanting to learn how to label read, there is no better opportunity than a hands-on supermarket tour.

Speak to the Supermarket Management

The first step in organizing your own supermarket tour is gaining permission from the store manager.  You may reach out via telephone to find a good time to meet in person. Speaking face to face will help build a better working relationship, and you will most likely get a better response.

Map Out Your Supermarket Tour

Once you have permission, you will need to map out which sections of the supermarket you will cover.  Some dietitians may prefer to shop the perimeter, and that is fine, but don’t forget there are many healthy options down the aisles too! 

Things to consider:

  • Store Layout
    • Which areas of the store are you going to cover? In this article we will cover:
      • Fresh Produce
      • Canned Fruits and Vegetables
      • Cereal and Bread
      • Meat/Protein
      • Dairy and Milk Alternatives
      • Fats
    • Check out what brands and food options your supermarket offers in these areas.
  • Client Health Priorities
    • Do your clients have specific health concerns (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)?
    • Are they looking for healthy eating strategies?
    • Do they need help shopping on a budget?
  • Length of supermarket tour
    • With practice, you will adjust the length of your tour while still covering important info.
      • A one-hour tour will limit the number of sections you can cover in detail.
      • A two-hour tour may be too long for your clients to remain standing.
    • You don’t have to cover every section of the store. Remember, you can transfer learning from one section of the tour to another (i.e. knowledge of fiber in cereal can be used in label reading for bread products too).
  • Number of clients at each tour
    • Too many clients can lead to limited personalization and clogging of the supermarket aisles.
Image of a couple grocery shopping in the produce section of a supermarket.

Fresh Produce

The produce section is generally located at the front of the supermarket.  It is a great place to start your tour while discussing the benefits of buying produce in season, choosing more color (eat the rainbow), and addressing budget concerns.

Buy in Season

If possible, research what fruits or vegetables are currently in season in your area.  You can also share tips and tricks on what to look for when buying vegetables and fruits.

To support you in this area, check out the following blog posts and our FREE PDF:

Eat the Rainbow

A simple and memorable message to share in the produce section is Eat the Rainbow.  The more colorful the plate, the more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals they will eat.  Talk about the health benefits of eating these colorful foods.

Produce on a Budget

Eating on a budget is a concern for all of us.  Talk about the benefits of frozen fruits or vegetables. When eating on a budget, fresh might not always be possible.  Discuss items in the produce section that may be less expensive (spinach or potatoes) if they want to have some fresh produce available.

Image of various canned foods

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Purchasing canned fruits and vegetables is another way to get more colorful fruits and vegetables in your client’s diet.  Areas to cover in more detail include sugar content in canned fruit and sodium content in canned vegetables.  Don’t forget to cover shopping on a budget!

Label Reading for Sugar Content

Many canned fruits are packed in heavy syrup or sugar.  Based on your client’s priorities, they may consider looking for fruit packed in light syrup, fruit juice, or water.  This is also a great place to review the importance of looking at the ingredient list for added sugars.

Label Reading for Sodium Content

Sodium content in foods will always be a conversation starter.  In this section you can review tips to lower sodium content in canned vegetables (rinse canned vegetables before cooking/serving, etc.). 

Your clients may also benefit from knowing the different definitions of sodium in food.  For example, a low sodium food contains 140 mg of sodium or less per serving (1). 

Compare labels of no salt added, low sodium, and regular canned vegetables to help them gauge their priorities when shopping in this section.

Canned Foods on a Budget

Canned foods can be a great topic when talking about eating on a budget. Compare the cost of name brand versions to the store brand.  The quality is very similar, but the difference in cost can be significant.

Beware of expired or damaged cans. They may be low cost food items, but your clients should know the risks.

Image of old fruit can
Image of a man shopping in the cereal aisle

Cereal or Bread Aisle

Cereal and bread can be a great way for clients to eat fiber.  These foods can also have added sugar. Both topics can be covered in these areas.

Fiber

Talk about the recommendations and benefits of dietary fiber.  Review what defines a good source of fiber vs. an excellent source of fiber.  Clients can use this information to review the food labels of their favorite cereal or bread products.

  • Good source of fiber = 2.5-4.9 fiber grams per serving
  • Excellent or high source of fiber = more than 5 grams of fiber per serving (2).

To learn more about the fiber content in foods, yoreview

Added Sugar

Review the ingredients list and discuss the Added Sugar section on the nutrition facts label.

  • 4 grams of Added Sugar = ~1 teaspoon of added sugar per serving to that food.
  • Is a sugar ingredient one of the top 3 ingredients in the ingredient list (can be listed as sucrose, honey, corn syrup, fructose, molasses, fruit juice sweeteners, or malt syrup, etc.)? Talk about what this means.

Grains on a Budget

Compare name brand options to store brand versions.  Often the quality of these foods are very similar, but the price difference can be significant.

Also, there are many grain products that are inexpensive and good sources of fiber. Talk about these options when your clients are shopping on a budget (rice, oats, whole grains).

Image of a woman shopping in the meat section.

Meat Section

Meat = HOT TOPIC!  This section can be a great opportunity for learning.  Possible topics include:

  • How to find lean cuts of meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Label reading for low sodium deli meat (and cheese)
  • Protein options on a budget

Lean/Medium/High Fat Meats

Talk about your client’s favorite meat choices.  This can offer a space to review lean vs. medium vs. high fat protein sources. This is also a great place to talk about tips and tricks to preparing protein using various cooking methods.

Sodium in Deli Meat (and Cheese)

Reinforcing the definition of low sodium food and practicing label reading can help your clients transfer learning from one section of the grocery store (canned vegetables) to the next (deli meat and cheese).

Protein on a Budget

Clients shopping on a budget may consider dried or canned beans, peanut butter, eggs, or canned tuna. “Select” grade meats are often less expensive and they are also typically leaner protein choices.

Image of someone grabbing a container of milk.

Dairy and Milk Alternatives

Dairy and milk alternatives can lead to fascinating conversations.  I love this section of the supermarket tour!

Calcium content

Dairy products are a great source of calcium.  Reviewing calcium recommendations and discussing where to find Calcium on the label can be helpful.

Fat Free, 1%, 2%, and Whole Fat Milk and Dairy

Comparing and contrasting the nutrient content of fat free, 1%, 2%, and whole fat milk products can be an eye-opening learning opportunity. 

MilkFat Free or Skim
Calories90
Total Fat0g
Saturated Fat0g
Protein8g
Carbohydrate12g
Milk1%
Calories110
Total Fat2.5g
Saturated Fat1.5g
Protein8g
Carbohydrate12g
Milk2%
Calories130
Total Fat5g
Saturated Fat3g
Protein8g
Carbohydrate12g
MilkWhole
Calories150
Total Fat8g
Saturated Fat5g
Protein8g
Carbohydrate12g

Compare/Contrast Dairy Milk to Milk Alternatives

Your clients may have taste and lifestyle preferences that lead them to milk alternatives.  Other clients simply have questions about each option, and they want your input on which option might be best for them. 

This is a great opportunity to review and compare the nutrition label and the ingredient lists of multiple dairy and milk alternative food labels to help your clients decide for themselves.

Image of an oil, salad dressing, and butter

Fats

Fats can be found in the oil section, salad dressing aisle, or in the cold dairy case (stick margarine, butter, tub margarine).  There are many different types of fats to explore and consider within a healthy eating pattern.

Saturated Fat

Discuss how clients can visually identify a saturated fat.  Review foods that contain saturated fats.  If health priorities encourage discussing saturated fat recommendations, this is a nice place to share that information.

Unsaturated Fat

Talk about how clients can identify unsaturated fats.  Review foods that contain mono and polyunsaturated fats.  This can be a great place to discuss the everyday uses of these fats.

Label Reading

If a client is looking for ways to quickly identify if a food is high or low in a specific fat (or other nutrients), you can always discuss the 5% and 20% rule.  If the Daily Value is 5% or less, the amount is low. If it is 20% or more, then the amount is high for that nutrient in that food.

Image of a couple grocery shopping

Supermarket Tour Resources

Consider the take home messages from each section of your tour.  You may consider giving your clients a handout for each section, or you may want to provide an overall summary sheet. 

Ask your clients what information they would like to take home with them to improve your supermarket tour over time.

Get your FREE Supermarket Tour Checklist here!

Image of the FREE Supermarket Tour Checklist

Final Thoughts on Your Amazing Supermarket Tour

Organizing and planning a supermarket tour can take a lot of time, and let’s be honest, limited time can be a big barrier for all of us.  Use this blog as a roadmap to help you get closer to organizing your own supermarket tour.

Good luck!

For more information about The Dietitian Resource, visit our site or check out the blog.  Thanks for visiting!

References

1. Administration, U.S. Food & Drug. Food Facts. Sodium in Your Diet Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intake. [Online] [Cited: Sept 14, 2022.] https://www.fda.gov/media/84261/download.

2. Dietary Fiber on the Food Label. FiberFacts.org. [Online] August 26, 2016. [Cited: September 14, 2022.] https://www.fiberfacts.org/dietary-fiber-food-label/.

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More About Rochelle

Rochelle Inwood MS, RDN, ACSM EP-C

Hello there! I’m Rochelle Inwood, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C). With over 14 years of experience, I have sharpened my expertise through diverse roles, including weight management program co-coordinator, patient/employee gym supervisor, outpatient dietitian, program manager, dietetic internship preceptor, and more. I am passionate about learning, creating, teaching, and supporting personal growth and development.