Do you shop the grocery store perimeter? That is, when you shop at the grocery store, do you try to stick to the outside aisles? Here are 5 healthy reasons to shop the grocery store perimeter.
Why should you shop the grocery store perimeter?
Let me quickly give you five healthy reasons:
- You will buy higher quality food; food that has fewer additives, preservatives, and chemicals.
- It will improve your budget health by costing you less money.
- It will take you less time and cause less stress.
- You won’t need to throw away or recycle as much packaging, so it makes the environment healthier.
- You and your family may improve your health by eating less processed foods.
How can that be possible? Let me explain.
The Healthiest Foods Are Found In the Grocery Store Perimeter
Around the outside perimeter (the outside aisles) of a grocery store, you generally find the fresh produce, bulk nuts and seeds, meat, dairy, eggs and cold juices. Sometimes you will also find frozen foods.
Most of these products are closer to what is naturally produced in nature and usually have not been processed to include preservatives and chemicals. Some of these products are organic and produced without antibiotics or added ingredients. I try to choose as many organic products as I can afford. Some of the most healthful foods—fruits and vegetables—do not require nutrition labeling.
In the fresh produce area, you will find whole fruits and vegetables, bulk seeds, nuts, and dried fruits, and convenience fruits and vegetables (those that have been washed and/or cut up, ready for you to eat or cook).
The more these products are handled and prepared for you, the more expensive they are. I suggest you buy your fruits and vegetables as fresh as you can get them, locally grown, if possible, and cut them up yourself. Buy only what you and your family can eat in a week so you don’t have to store them very long. The further the fruit or vegetable gets from when it was picked, the less nutritious it becomes.
Many people in the United States eat meat, fish and eggs as their main protein sources. In the fresh meat department, you can buy beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken, or fish. For better health, try to stick to the less fatty varieties of these foods, such as boneless, skinless chicken breast or fresh fish (without breading). It will be better for your heart and waist if you stick to lower-fat varieties of meat and poultry. Also remember that you don’t need as much protein as you probably think you do; 3–6 ounces of protein per meal is plenty.
Some stores place the frozen fish and poultry section near the meat department. In other stores it is found in one of the center aisles. Frozen fish and poultry are good options, as well, but be sure to choose the ones that are not breaded or packaged in butter and seasonings. For the most economical and healthy option, look for the products that are least processed and have the fewest ingredients on the label.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese all contain good protein, vitamins and calcium. Some foods, like sour cream and high-fat cheeses, can really pack on the fat and calories, so go easy on these. Today, there are lots of options in the dairy department for organic, antibiotic-free, free-ranging products, etc. These terms may not mean what you think they do, so read up on them and make the best choice you can afford.
The deli and processed meats (such as packaged lunchmeat and breakfast meat) areas of the store are also generally found around the outside aisles. I suggest you skip these two areas most of the time because the foods sold there are highly processed, and high in calories, fat and salt.
The Center Aisles Contain the Most Highly Processed Foods
The goods in the center aisles of a grocery store are generally the most processed, least nutritious forms of food. All packaged foods are required to have nutrition labels on them. The first five ingredients are listed in order of abundance, that is, from most to least ingredient. The serving size specified on the label may be surprisingly small.
How To Read Labels
When I read the labels, I look for how big the serving size is, what the calories, total fat and saturated fat are, how many total carbohydrates it contains, how much sugar it has, and what the total fiber is. I try to keep the carbs low (15 or fewer grams of carbs) and the fiber high (five or more grams of fiber). Since I’m a Type II Diabetic, I also look for how much protein is included in the food because I need to balance carbs with proteins.
The way the foods are packaged (to get your attention!) and where they are placed on the shelves (eye level, to get your attention!) is important, too. Look up and down the shelves to find more affordable foods. It’s likely the nutrition is similar, but the cost can be quite different. I suggest you compare the nutrition labels before you make your choice.
It’s Quicker to Walk the Perimeter than the Center Aisles
The center aisles are designed to keep you in the store. The longer you are there, the more you will buy. Of course, there are some things you will need to buy in the middle aisles: dry or canned beans/legumes, canned tomatoes or other vegetables, bread (unless you make your own), cereal, coffee, tea, vinegars and oils, and cleaning products are a few. If you learn where they are placed in the store and bring your shopping list with you, you will spend less time and money in the grocery store.
It Will Cost You Less
Fresh produce may seem more expensive than canned, but it is so much better for your health, and overall, may not be any more expensive. Most fresh vegetables can be eaten in their entirety, skin, leaves and fruit. They have more fiber and are more filling. They provide more nutrients because the nutrients have not been cooked out of them. If you cannot eat fresh fruits and vegetables, the next-best option is frozen (without sugar or extra ingredients). Canned fruits and vegetables contain more salt and/or sugar than fresh or frozen, so this should be your third choice.
If you eat a fresh salad every day, you will build up the good bacteria in your system. Eating healthfully can help to reduce your chances of getting sick or developing chronic disease.
You Will Choose Fewer Impulse Buys
Walking up and down the center aisles and peering at the special displays makes it far more likely you will fill your cart not only with less nutritious foods, but also extra items that were not on your shopping list. The aisle endcaps (special end-of-the-aisle displays) are designed as attention-grabbers. Those marketing specialists really know what they are doing, don’t they?
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This recipe was originally posted on Recipe Idea Shop February 9, 2021.
Disclaimer: The author is not a health professional or nutritionist. She is offering her research and personal reflections about her health journey and is not providing any type of medical or nutritional advice. This post is for informational purposes only. It is offered as a tool for people to discover their own suspected food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. Readers are highly encouraged to read, write, and reflect on the ideas presented. Consult your healthcare professional before initiating any dietary or exercise program.