Combining Food and Supplement Advice
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
The Council for Responsible Nutrition estimates that 71% of American adults take supplements and in most supermarkets, the supplement aisle appears to be showing steady growth. However, with more products to choose from, consumer confusion about this area of the store is also growing. While supermarket dietitians are experts at providing direction in the food aisles they often lack a high level of comfort when it comes to answering customer questions about dietary supplements. Without proper guidance, consumers may walk away without making a needed supplement purchase or spend money on unnecessary products.
Is there an educational role for the supermarket dietitian in the supplement aisle? While some retail RDs may refer questions to their store pharmacist, if one is available, they still may want to arm themselves with the resources and guidelines that allow them to address customer questions with confidence.
Tina Miller, MS, RDN, from Meijer completed advanced training in integrative health and also teaches a complementary and integrative health class at Eastern Michigan University. She uses her expertise to provide educational articles on the Meijer website and discusses possible supplement needs along with nutrition recommendations for individuals with specific health issues. Tina shared her guidelines regarding supplement questions from customers and recommends several resources:
- Ensure the customer is working with their physician first and foremost.
- Focus on food first then determine if a supplement can have an added therapeutic effect.
- Use the Natural Medicines website to make sure there are no supplement and medication interactions. Partner with your pharmacist if available.
- Recommend supplements that are third-party certified for Good Manufacturing Practices (or have seals) from USP or NSF, as examples. Also, consider recommending products from nationally recognized brands, store brands from a trusted retailer, or quality companies with whom you’re familiar. Seals or certifications are just one way that companies can invest in their brand, but the absence of a seal does not mean that a product is of poor quality.
- CRN – Council for Responsible Nutrition, leading industry trade association
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
- NCCIH – National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- Natural Medicines
- Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group (DIFM)
- American Botanical Council
Understanding some basic guidelines and where to go for science-based supplement resources will help you provide needed guidance to shoppers and additional value to your retailer.