Retail Dietitian Close Up: Heather Steele RD, LD; Reasor’s
Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
When I first applied for my degree in dietetics I knew my passion was to inspire healthy lifestyles in the community. I had always dreamed of one day working as a retail dietitian where I could make the nutrition recommendations that individuals receive in the store, increasing their likelihood of success. When the position opened up at Reasor’s I quickly applied and was ecstatic when I was offered the position as one of their in-store RDs. Since then, our team has continued to grow to accommodate 5 retail dietitians in just one year. We wear many different hats, from offering community events, to one-on-one counseling, to corporate wellness. Every day is different and brings new and exciting challenges.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Social media has brought in a whole new competitor for dietitians with the ability of anyone anywhere to freely share and create nutrition information with the use shocking headlines to grab the attention of users. While some of the information that consumers get can from social media can be factual, a lot of times I am faced with questions about a ‘too good to be true’ nutrition claim, providing me a unique challenge to redirect those beliefs to something more evidence based.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had more training in marketing, as it’s such an essential part of retail success. Luckily, I have a great team of individuals at Reasor’s that have helped me learn the ropes, from video production to running professional social media accounts.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I think one of my limitations when I first started was feeling like I needed to know the answer to every question. I try and keep up with trends, continuing education, and learning my customer base to anticipate and prepare for all questions. When in doubt, I always have a response prepared and take their information to follow up. I also work with a great team of dietitians from varying backgrounds that I feel I can learn from everyday.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I am always striving to understand new aspects of retail by asking questions from more experienced retail dietitians and veterans in the grocery industry. I constantly look for continuing education to equip myself with the most up to date knowledge and to follow the current and upcoming food trends that play a role food purchasing decisions.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of.
By far I am most proud of our Eat Right Feel Great program; it incorporates several aspects of nutrition and is streamlined throughout our entire company. The program was established to help educate customers and employees about a healthy lifestyle. It is broken into 6 different series throughout the year including Gluten Free, Back to School Nutrition, Diabetes Education and more. Throughout the series we provide free on-site sampling events, videos showcasing recipes, and dietitian wellness workshops. All of the information ties back to our in-store Dietitian Approved tags and is featured in our weekly ads. The ability to share this information through various avenues is inspiring and just a springboard to what we can achieve.
Heather Steele, RD/LD is an in-store Registered Dietitian with Reasor’s in Broken Arrow, OK. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. Prior to Reasor’s, Heather worked as the Oklahoma Regional Dietitian for Sodexo’s K-12 schools and as a Contract Health & Wellness Writer for Demand Media Studios. She is passionate about pediatric nutrition and counseling on food allergies. Heather is one of five Registered Dietitians employed with Reasor’s providing various services including personal consultations, meal planning, and shopping healthy tours.