RD Close-Up: Marda Heuman, RDN, LDN, Wegmans Nutritionist
Please describe your role at Wegmans.
My role is mainly focused on our employees. I have the amazing opportunity to help employees in our Pennsylvania stores live healthier, better lives through food. I do this by organizing store wellness teams that consist of employees who are passionate about health and wellness. I support these teams by connecting them to our company-wide wellness programs and educating them on current nutrition trends. I also reinforce department-specific nutrition messages. For example, I summarize the health benefits of whole grains for our bakery employees, so they can confidently share that information with our customers. I also assist our store teams when they participate in community events, such as gluten-free expos.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Wegmans?
I’ve been a dietitian for 25 years and had several different roles in the field. I first heard of retail dietetics through Cindy Silver, a dietitian who wrote a column in the weekly ad at a local supermarket chain when I lived in North Carolina. I always thought her role of helping shoppers sounded like a cool career. When I moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania 10 years ago, I did some soul searching and decided I wanted to get back to my food roots. I grew up in my parents’ restaurant business where my love of food began, and I have a degree in food science. So, it wasn’t a stretch to find myself wanting to work for a grocery chain, especially Wegmans, which has been voted the best in many categories throughout the years. Being surrounded by food all day is a delightful bonus! There is no better way to teach nutrition than to actually have real food available to help educate your clients.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
I think there is more than one thing I wish I knew! The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is how hard retail employees work. It would have been beneficial to me to have a background in public health and business in order to help our people both personally and professionally.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Wegmans has employed corporate dietitians since the mid-1980s. However, the division dietitian role is relatively new. In my role, I have a unique opportunity to make sure our employees feel cared for while also helping our business. I view my role as a way to foster Wegmans’ value of caring for our people by helping them feel better about their health. I love what I do, and the strong desire to help people is why I became a dietitian.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that helped you moved forward in your role?
Knowing how to bob and weave has been very helpful. When something doesn’t resonate, I know I can’t give up – that’s when I try a different approach or come up with a new idea altogether. I’ve found that building relationships has been key. Establishing myself as a trustworthy and knowledgeable expert they can rely on to listen with empathy and compassion has been critical. I have worked for Wegmans for 10 years, and those relationships are really paying off. I’ve built solid programs that help people reach their health goals. Our employees collectively rally around our mission of helping people live healthier, better lives through food. That’s the secret sauce.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
One initiative I proudly share with employees is our half-plate healthy message. In order to make your plate half-plate healthy, fill half of it with fruits and veggies and the other half with whatever you’d like. This helps control calories and balances the plate without sacrificing the foods you love. It is a simple, visual tool that can be used anywhere and with any meal. One employee I worked with a few years ago lost more than 100 pounds using only this tactic. The best part? She has kept it off and quit smoking, and now has lots of energy to enjoy her grandkids!
Please provide a short bio as well as your social media links.
Marda Heuman is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who lives outside Philadelphia. Her passion is teaching others the benefits of healthy living. Her childhood experience standing on a chair next to her grandma in her parents’ restaurant, making sheet pans of sweet rolls and other delicious treats, ignited her love of good food and fun people to share it with. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition, and also completed an internship at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. She has enjoyed a variety of roles in her 25 years as an RDN, including clinical nutrition and cardiac rehab. She helped a physician create a weight loss clinic while acting as the program director and later opened a private practice where she specialized in weight loss counselling. She is proud to work for Wegmans, a family supermarket chain named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 22 consecutive years. Heuman can’t wait to get to work every morning, see everyone, and share her nutrition messages!