In Plain Sight: Wrapping Nutrition Education in Relevance and Fun

In Plain Sight: Wrapping Nutrition Education in Relevance and Fun

March 13, 2013

Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
RDBA Executive Committee

Recently, the Midwest was hit by one of the bigger snowfalls of the season, blanketing everything in the kind of snow that is perfect for building a snowman.  Later in the week on Pinterest, one of my pins was a pancake snowman with a bacon scarf.  It instantly made me smile,, and off I went with the tweak of replacing the bacon scarf with string cheese and bell pepper to personalize it in my Tweet.   Take it one step further – by making the replacement I did, obvious to all of us dietitians, it made it a three food group meal relevant to exactly what happened with the weather.  Is it a full serving of vegetables?  No, but perhaps it moved a customer to add a veggie where they never would have thought it fit.

One of the things retail dietitians can excel in is making nutrition education part of the conversation instead of a side bar – and making it fun so people enjoy themselves as we are teaching them and increasing sales of healthful products.  One of my favorite things to say is, “if I have dietitian-ed you properly, you don’t know you have been dietitian-ed.”  This is critical to getting people excited to meet the recommendations for daily fruit and vegetable consumption – making health and wellness fun and relatable.

Here are some action steps to think about when executing against your planning calendar:

  • Stretch Creativity.  Build programs that will resonate with the entire retail team and the customer.  We all know diabetes is on our shoppers’ minds at every eating occasion­—not just in November when we are all likely to create programs around it.  Our job is the dance of a focused program capturing national initiatives while remembering that customer who will still be looking for solutions when November’s program is over. 
  • Make Health Mainstream (And Easy).  Help your merchandising, marketing, and community affairs teams see the benefit of weaving health into the daily message – and that it could be as simple as adding something like “Check out our website for more meal ideas, including diabetes friendly recipes.”  Health doesn’t have to lead, but to show understanding of our customers’ daily lives, speak to them whenever possible in addition to those special programs.   It’s the same principle we use when we say “a person with diabetes” instead of diabetic – let’s talk to the person – not the disease.
  • Manage up.  Yes, the Pinterest snowman is a super cute idea that customers will love, but don’t forget the critical step of explaining to your internal team that your post is intentional, helping support the idea of balanced meals, increasing produce at breakfast, and helping to drive sales throughout the store with a creative idea – it’s not just a silly snowman.  If your social media work is successful, customers will be loyal and follow because they are having fun and getting relevant ideas that help them manage their health conditions.  This is happening while you are teaching lifestyle skills to those who need it. And with intent, you are also providing a recipe to the mainstream and educating the retailer on nutrition education done right.  Be sure your manager and retail support teams are aware of the intent so the fun message is received with the respect it deserves.  Social media is helping us make better choices fun for our target audiences – make sure that doesn’t get lost by those who maybe start out by just seeing the snowman.

Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE is on the executive committee of RDBA.  For nearly ten years, Kim was the dietitian for Jewel-Osco where she drove health and wellness strategy and served as media spokesperson.  She now works in nutrition communications and is a certified diabetes educator and experienced media expert, working with both national and regional traditional media as well as social media outlets.