Mercer Island’s newest grocery store, New Seasons Market, offers a lot of resources for improving wellness, navigating specialized diets and eating healthfully, including a full-time, on-site nutritionist.
New Seasons nutritionist Tran Hoang teaches classes, provides “store picks” each quarter and hosts Talk N’ Taste events from 1-5 p.m. on Thursdays. She is also available for free, individual one-hour appointments, called Talk ’n’ Shop, to provide custom advice and resources, including product recommendations, coupons and samples.
The program can help shoppers make smarter choices at the grocery store, and address any unique need from healthy eating on a budget to fighting inflammation. It’s also a chance to explore the store with a knowledgeable, friendly nutrition professional. Hoang said she likes to use the store as a “teaching pantry.”
Hoang said that helping customers with nutrition is about “meeting people where they’re at,” with no judgement. The goal is to help people make little lifestyle changes and tweaks in dietary habits.
“Our philosophy is that we want people to enjoy food,” she said.
Appointments typically consist of a 20-30 minute discussion, which can be informed by a three-day food journal completed prior to the session, and 30 minutes of walking the store aisles. No purchase is required post-appointment, and up to five additional guests are welcome at each session.
Hoang said she is looking forward to sharing the program, and general nutrition tips, with the Island community. She went to a men’s breakfast at Island House, and prepared overnight oats for a post-breakfast workout at MI Athletic Club.
New Seasons also has a community room in the back of the store that can be reserved for groups and classes. Hoang hosted a Girl Scout Troop there in January for an “eat the rainbow” class about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, and will work with a Cub Scout Troop at the end of the month.
Hoang said she got into nutrition after spending four years on the road, doing tech consulting. She said it was difficult to be healthy while traveling for four or five days out of the week. She looked into culinary school, but found that the emphasis was more on taste than nutritional value.
She went to the University of Natural Medicine in Portland, which focuses on diets that are based on whole, unprocessed foods. She said the program was 80 percent theory and 20 percent hands-on learning and cooking.
New Seasons often has classes, demonstrations and samples at its Solutions Counter. Shoppers may shy away from certain products, like Kombucha or kimchi, if they don’t know what it tastes like or what to do with it, Hoang said. Shoppers are welcome to sample anything on the New Seasons shelves.
“I’m a visual learner too,” Hoang said. “I like being about to show someone what the product is, how to use it and where to find it in the store.”
Overall, Hoang said her top nutrition tips are that “a healthy diet is a varied diet,” that people should look at the ingredient list on products before the calorie count and that a holistic approach to health is key.