With beach-wavy locks the colour of ripe papaya, naturopathic doctor Joel Lee Villeneuve was easy to spot among the rows of produce at a suburban Ottawa Farm Boy grocery store. I had signed up for one of her free nutritional tours – a spotlight on vegan foods – advertised on the grocer’s website. I joined a small gathering of women in the organic section just as Villeneuve was holding up a bag of soybean sprouts, one of the vegetables she recommends adding to our breakfast repertoire.
“You know who told us we should have cereal in the morning?” she says, “Mr. Kellogg.”
As a 20-year veteran in the natural health-care industry in private practice, Villeneuve has made a career of nudging the public toward healthier food choices. She was even able to predict my question of what to do with the inevitable half-bag of limp sprouts after a few days of adding them to wraps, rice bowls and soups (answer: Blanch them for one minute in boiling water and toss in a Korean vinaigrette.).
Her monthly Farm Boy gig puts her in the company of a growing number of nutrition experts popping up in grocery aisles to dispense healthy-eating advice. Like the presence of nutritional star-rating systems on shelf labels, roving dietitians are the latest sign that grocery stores are getting pushier about offering nutritional advice. It makes sense from the shoppers’ perspective: Where better than the supermarket to pick up the latest “it” ingredient, get recipe ideas and discover healthier snack options?