Supermarkets are coming under more pressure to promote healthy eating and provide customers with honest information on what is good and what is bad about the products on their shelves.
Some supermarkets have taking this a stage further by developing their own diet programs, but most just provide some healthy eating advice on their websites. Here we take a look at what the big supermarkets are saying about healthy eating today.
Walmart is a powerhouse of a supermarket and literally feeds half of America, possibly more. Just about every American lives near a Walmart. So, what do they teach people about diet and healthy eating?
Walmart, like most commercial enterprises, focus on information on weight loss, meal replacement and sports nutrition, and do not make it clear what their stance on healthy eating is. The message is – if you want to lose weight, Walmart will help, otherwise, just shop!
“From nutrition bars and drinks to scales and sports nutrition, you’ll find all the dietary supplements you need at Walmart.com. Our great selection of dietary supplements includes diet and weight management, nutritional supplements, scales, nutritional drinks and more.”
They do stock whey protein and green tea though, both of which are useful for those working to get fit and lose weight. However, the bottom line is that if they do provide some advice on healthy eating, it is hidden away and we cannot find it. They do have a community which does seem to touch on these topics, but more in the form of user generated content than an actual corporate statement.
Aldi are considered to be a more budget supermarket in America (Aldi is an abbreviated of Albrecht Discount, after its founders Karl Albrecht and Theo Albrecht). Aldi have their own Fit & Active brand which provides some information on living a healthy lifestyle. They also provide “Fit Facts” on the food labels of their Fit & Active range of goods, which gives the nutritional information of food for sale.
Their diet advice is:
“Following a low-cholesterol, trans-fat free diet is an essential for maintaining optimum health. To monitor what you put in your body, simply check the top, right-hand corner of every Fit & Active® package for the extra ways each product is “Better For You”—a good source of vitamins and minerals, a good source of fiber, caffeine-free, low in cholesterol or trans-fats free. It’s just one more way to see the benefits of making smarter food choices every day.”
This is good diet advice. However, it is only part of the nutritional picture. They do not mention sugar, which is a leading cause of obesity and its associated diseases, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Kroger is America’s largest grocery chain, so hopefully they provide some good healthy eating advice.
Their website certainly highlights health and they have several products dedicated to health, such as NuVal Nutritional Scoring System, HealthStations to monitor health, plus they arrange tours of their supermarkets with a registered dietician.
“We are making dietitians available to answer your nutrition questions and conduct informative food tours in our stores. We are adding the NuVal™ Nutrition Scoring System to our shelf tags to assist you in making quicker, simpler comparisons between foods. NuVal™ is nutrition made easy.”
This is actually a very clever marketing strategy, as rather than provide the information on their website about healthy eating, they encourage their customers to go to the store to learn. But, this is a great idea, and sounds like an excellent way to teach their customers about health.
Most people are happier to listen to a professional in store and would learn more from being able to interact and ask questions about specific products before shopping. A really good innovative idea, thumbs up from MotleyHealth.com! Kroger also provide some good information on gluten free diets and exercise for fitness. They are also partnered with Staywellsolutionsonline.com to provide health news, recipes and some medical information.
Tesco are one of the leading supermarkets in the UK and have developed their own diet plan. Their dedicated diet website www.tescodiets.comprovides several diet plans and they also provide some free downloads, such as their GI food guide.
Tesco do not really provide an answer to the question “what is a healthy diet?” but they do provide a wide range of information on diets in general, and provide many diet plans as well as some fitness advice.
Sainsburys do tackle the question of what is a healthy diet. They provide this definition:
“When it comes to healthy eating, the most important thing to remember is that, despite what newspaper headlines may say, there are no such things as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. The odd biscuit or packet of crisps here and there isn’t going to do any harm if the rest of your diet is healthy.
The secret to a healthy diet is balance. To help you get it right, nutritionists have divided foods into five groups shown above in the Eatwell plate.
To ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs, you need to eat some food from each of the food groups each day. Foods from the largest groups should be eaten most often.”
They use the “Eatwell Plate” which is the UK government endorsed healthy eating advice. Really it is no surprise that a supermarket that makes so much profit from selling unhealthy food would say that “the odd biscuit or packet of crisps here and there isn’t going to do any harm” – everything in moderation.
However, this can lead to some confusion. According to the eatwell plate 33% of your diet should be made up of bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. However, if you only eat white bread for that 33% then you will very likely be consuming too much sugar and not enough fiber or vitamins.
Although each supermarket that we examined do provide a solution for healthy living, it is always very much in the form of a brand or product that they provide. None of them provide clear and concise information on how to construct your own healthy diet.
Sainsbury’s in the UK comes closest by providing the UK Governement’s Eatwell information on their site, but this information on its own is really rather superficial and could potentially lead to some ill informed choices, such as an over reliance on white bread an white rice.
We were most impressed with Kroger’s offerings, they have really embraced the healthy living message and do provide a really innovative commercial response to the increasing need to provide more health advice to the general public. Kroger are the only supermarket chain that provide medical professionals (dieticians) on site to give advice to shoppers.
All supermarkets could do better though, simply by offering more comprehensive information that is separated from product placement.