Retail Dietitian Close Up: Colleen Miller MHSc, RD, CDE; Sobeys
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
My career began in a traditional clinical setting where I worked with general medicine and oncology patients. It was here I realized there was a tremendous gap between the support available in the acute care setting and the community. When an opportunity presented itself to be one of the first Sobeys Dietitians in Ontario, Canada I was excited to make the leap. As a Retail Dietitian, I am fortunate enough to bring health education to the general public and also to partner with local health care providers to help bridge the gap in service by providing education to people living with chronic diseases in the community. Additionally, a strength of our Dietitian program is that we are part of the Sobeys Pharmacy team and are therefore able to work with our Pharmacists and together provide health tips and information. By providing collaborative support for our customers from our unique disciplines, we are really able to provide an enhanced service.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I would have known how much the public looks to dietitians to learn cooking skills. In classes that I offer, I balance the education to include nutrition knowledge as well as basic cooking skills and techniques through food-focused teaching. Telling a customer to eat a higher fiber diet sounds straightforward, but showing a customer how to cook higher-fiber foods such as lentils, or flax gives them the confidence that this is something they could do at home.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Retail Dietitians are relatively new in Ontario with only a few retailers currently offering this value-added service. Breaking new ground in my province has taken time as has getting awareness for what I can offer to potential community partners. The best way I’ve found to deal with this, is to invite potential partners to attend a class and see what I do firsthand so they get a sense of what I do and how it complements what they offer.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I think it’s important as a Retail Dietitian to take advantage of opportunities to learn about the industry. Grocery retailers are rich with internal resources from marketing, social media support, culinary experts, communications and more. Every opportunity I get, I ask questions. This has helped me uncover more about the retail industry and how I can position the work I do as a retail dietitian for success. I am also fortunate enough to work with an amazing team of dietitians at Sobeys, many of whom have worked with Sobeys since the program launched in 2001. My colleagues are a valuable resource that I am grateful to have!
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud
It’s hard to pick only one! But if I have to pick, I have to say I am most proud of my work in developing a program for diabetics, where I teach customers some of the basics such as modifying recipes to increase fiber, and how to reduce sugar in cooking or baking. I’ve had customers who’ve lived with diabetes for years tell me, they thought they needed specific diabetes friendly recipes and products, and that no one had ever explained how they could modify a family favorite recipe to better manage their blood sugar, but still enjoy the foods they love. It is a great feeling to be able to ‘be real’ and help my customers living with diabetes realize they have many options as well as the skills needed to help improve their health.
Colleen Miller MHSc, RD, CDE has been working as a Retail RD at Sobeys since 2014. She is thrilled to be part of Sobeys’ Eat Better, Feel Better, Do Better movement. Colleen works at a Sobeys extra store in Aurora, ON, Canada and also works on projects to support the National Sobeys Dietitian team via the National Office in Toronto, ON, Canada.