After 135 years in the grocery biz, Vitacost’s parent company, Kroger, has come to believe that food is medicine. As such, the grocer has a team of dietitians focused on helping Americans discover the best foods to eat for health through one-on-one telenutrition appointments.
To test out the service, I booked a 60-minute virtual appointment, secret-shopper style, with Anna Smith, MS, RDN, LDN, a retail dietitian coordinator with Kroger Health. Here’s how my consultation went, what I learned and how you can make the most of online nutrition counseling if you decide to try it yourself.
How I Booked an Appointment
It was a seamless process to book a telenutrition consultation: I simply filled out a short form with my information, then was able to set up my visit via two options—available dates/times or available dietitians. I chose the first option and was able to get something on the calendar for the following week (upon checking the system again, it appears you need to book at least three days out to get a time slot). Next, I answered a few questions typical of a doctor’s visit questionnaire related to existing medical conditions and medications, as well as a few more specifics about any food allergies, foods I didn’t like and what I wanted to learn from the consultation (i.e, how to eat mindfully, how to shop healthy, tips for managing food cravings). When this process was complete, I got an email confirmation with a Zoom link to add to my calendar.
What We Talked About
When it came time for my appointment, I clicked on the Zoom link. and was greeted by Anna’s friendly face. We spent a few minutes getting to know each other and sharing how we were doing before she asked me questions around things like my confidence levels around shopping for healthy food or preparing healthy meals. I admitted right away that because I’m a food and health writer, I felt quite confident in my ability to understand how to do each of those things—but that I didn’t necessarily eat healthy 100 percent of the time (hey, we’re all human, right?).
Next, she asked if I could share what a “normal” day of eating looks like for me. From there, Anna let me know that we were free to dive into any questions or topics that I wanted to talk about with her for the next 50 minutes or so.
Revealing a dietary secret
I thought it was now or never when it comes to revealing a dietary secret: my addiction to eating too much dessert at night. It felt strange to mention this to a virtual nutritionist (and now, to the internet), when I don’t even talk about this issue with my friends—but Anna put me at ease, and our video call felt like a safe space.
My problem, I explained, is that I’ll consume healthy foods and portions throughout the day, then often overdo it on sugary treats (M&Ms, homemade cookies, ice cream—you name it) in the evenings, and I feel like it’s setting me back from my physical goals, despite maintaining a regimented workout schedule.
Anna gently asked me questions about how this activity got started and helped me to pinpoint that the reason I likely do this is not because I’m hungry, but because I’ve made it a habit. I came to the realization that she was right: Settling down, watching a show and eating sweets in the evening has become a comforting routine for me and my husband. We were doing this before the stay-at-home orders began, so continuing our routine has helped us to retain some sense of normalcy. While this action is tied to feelings of comfort, it’s also become tied to feelings of guilt and shame, as I feel like I’ve been “undoing” all the hard work I’ve put into exercising and eating right the rest of the day.
Anna put things in perspective for me, advising that I should pay attention to how giving up this routine would make me feel: Would it be stressful or make me feel restricted? “If a little piece of chocolate in that time is going to provide happiness and time with your husband, maybe it’s worth it,” she said.
However, she continued, if I feel like it’s hindering where I want to be (which it is), she offered some suggestions. Among them: replacing dessert with a cup of a hot tea with a dessert-like flavor, which I could enjoy for no calories (and no caffeine), like Tazo’s Dessert Delights Glazed Lemon Loaf herbal tea.. Second, she advised adding in a heartier starch with dinner, such as white beans, sweet potatoes, farro or chickpea pasta to help me feel more satisfied and be less inclined to reach for more food later in the evening. Her third idea was to experiment with new recipes for healthy desserts, such as those from the blog Ambitious Kitchen. We both laughed at her bringing this up, because that’s already one of my favorite sites for recipes!
Another topic we touched on was the concept of counting macros. I’ve followed fitness influencers on Instagram for years who swear this eating method is the key to their toned physiques, and while I’ve experimented with it on and off, I’ve never noticed amazing results—which has been frustrating.
My question for Anna was: Bottom line, is macro tracking worth it? Her response was that all the effort and time it takes to accurately track macros could be better spent on other activities, such as walking, reading or something else that helps reduce stress—especially during this time. While it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear (I guess I was looking for someone to say, “You’ve been doing it all wrong; here’s how to actually see results from it!”), it helped me to feel a little relieved that I don’t necessarily need to be putting so much energy into tracking every single thing I eat.
My Recommendations to Others Trying Online Nutrition Counseling
Going into the virtual appointment, I expected it would probably wrap up well before our time was over; an hour call seemed like too much space to fill. However, once Anna and I established a good rapport, the minutes flew by, and I found myself having to hold my thoughts to wrap up by our scheduled end time.
My best advice for getting the most out of your telenutrition visit:
- Do it now! Go ahead and get an appointment on the calendar.
- Jot down questions and topics. Think through what you want to talk with your dietitian about in advance, as the time does go quickly, and it’s easy to get off track, rather than getting the information you need. The nice thing about these calls is that they’re led by you, but you have to keep yourself accountable and know what you want to achieve to get the outcome you want.
- Be open and vulnerable. As the saying goes, you get what you put in—and the same is true here. If you’re not honest about your diet or eating habits, you won’t get the guidance and knowledge you need to overcome challenges. View the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, and maybe even have a little fun!
This 60-minute call can serve as a mini therapy session with immense benefits, if you’re open to it. Most people find that participating in multiple appointments is more effective than a one-off visit if you’re trying to focus on long-term behavioral changes, says Bridget Wojciak, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Kroger Health, but you can consider this first call as a step in the right direction.
Whether you think you basically know it all but have a few issues (like I did) or are starting from ground zero when it comes to following a healthy diet, I really believe this telenutrition service has benefits for everyone.
To book your Kroger Health telenutrition consultation:
- Visit kroger.com/telenutrition.
- Choose a date/time or dietitian.
- Fill out the information requested.
- Schedule your appointment!
Related reading: Telehealth Visit Tips for Your Virtual Doctor’s Appointment