Grocery store secret: Shop only the perimeter of the store?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
While it is true that many healthy items are on the perimeter of the store, all sections of the grocery store offer healthy options. At the same time, some of those items on the perimeter are not so great!
WHAT WE KNOW
Think about your last trip to the grocery store. Chances are the fresh produce section, the meat and seafood departments, and the dairy case were all located around the perimeter of the store. The thought is that you should concentrate most of your shopping time there. Why? Because foods without added ingredients are generally healthier than ready-to-eat foods found elsewhere in the store. While following the perimeter is a good starting point, remember that healthy foods are available throughout the store.
Most grocery stores are arranged with produce on the left or right side of the store, with frozen foods on the other side or in the middle of the store. Chilled products are at the back of the store and meats are usually near the produce. This can give you a general path when venturing around the grocery store…start by loading up with fresh fruits and veggies and fresh meat and seafood (without all the extra ingredients). Look for 100% juice products, low-fat dairy products, and finish with whole wheat pastas and rice, whole grain cereals and frozen, canned, and dried fruits and veggies from the center aisles.
If grocery shopping for a balanced meal confuses you, try these 4 simple rules …
- Choose fruits & veggies of all forms—fresh, frozen, canned, dried & 100% juice
- Choose lean proteins (eggs, chicken, turkey, beans, tofu), low-fat dairy products, and whole grains
- Visit our well-stocked pantry list for a complete shopping list to always keep healthy options available
- Learn how to read a food label
While shop the perimeter is a good guideline, remember these helpful tips …
- Bakery. While there are some healthy items here (e.g. whole wheat pita bread), for the most part, you can skip this section. Instead, look for most whole grains in the bread or cereal aisles.
- The Dairy Section. Choose low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheeses. Even though these are on the perimeter, beware of those whole-fat varieties … they’re really no better than bacon! And all dairy has some sodium. (You can taste it in cheese, where there is usually a lot of it, but it’s even found in milk!) And yogurt made from 10% fat milk is even worse than whole milk, which is 3.5% fat. Several 100% fruit juices can be found near the dairy section, look for these here or in the juice aisle. Be aware of what might look like juice, but has added sugars instead.
- The Meat Section. Choose fresh fish, turkey, chicken, lean beef and pork. Avoid: highly marbled meats (high saturated fat), sausages, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats, and various parts of the cow and pig that I would prefer not to see, let alone mention. Frozen meat (seafood, turkey, chicken, beef, pork) is fine too when it doesn’t have a lot of other added ingredients. Almost all of that pre-breaded fried stuff in the frozen aisle is a problem!
- The Produce Section. All of the fruits and vegetables here are great, but be careful with croutons, salad dressings, and other toppings that may be sold here; look for those lighter varieties. Don’t forget that frozen, canned, dried fruits and veggies found in the center aisles are just ways to help store nutritious fruits and veggies longer!
The aisles have some great items too …
- Cereals. Whole grain and low in added sugar cereals are found here, including oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.
- Dried Fruits & Veggies. Snag a couple packages of these and pair with nuts for an energy powered snack!
- Oils. Olive oil, canola oil and even the various specialty oils such as peanut and sesame oil.
- Herbs and Spices. Flavors and more flavors for your cooking, especially if you are working on reducing your sodium intake.
- Frozen Foods. Stock up on the frozen veggies. Buy frozen meat without the added breading or extra sodium.
- Canned Foods. Canned beans, canned vegetables, and canned fruit like peaches, pineapple and Mandarin oranges. Worried about the sodium content of canned foods? Drain and rinse canned product to cut the sodium and sugar content. If you choose soups and vegetables, choose the lower sodium versions.
Read more about planning a balanced meal, and remember to focus on fruits and veggies on your next grocery trip! Select a new fruit or vegetable each time or learn new ways to prepare an old favorite!