Have you ever heard that shopping the perimeter of the store is better or healthier? Have you ever been told to avoid the aisles? Have you ever felt guilty for having a cart full of “processed” boxed or canned items?
Well I am here to tell you that I hit the aisles hard and proud! Although I completely agree that there are plenty of natural and healthy options in the produce area and around the outside edges, I encourage you to think about this concept as I organize some foods into perimeter vs. interior. I am going to use Meijer as an example, because that’s where I often shop!
Foods you would find on the perimeter:
- Expensive salad dressings high in fat
- Deceiving dried fruits and trail mixes often high in sugar
- Smoothies and specialty drinks often high in sugar
- Gourmet cheese spreads high in saturated fat/sodium
- The deli area, which contain mayo based/high fat salads, fried foods, high sodium meats and cheeses
- THE ENTIRE BAKERY for goodness sake
- Wine/beer/alcohol (okay that’s unfortunate)
- Sandwich meats, cheeses and snacks high in fat, sodium and sometimes preservatives
- End caps & display modules: if you are only going around the outside, the end caps and outside aisles often contain unhealthy, discounted items that are seasonal “treats” and other potential junk foods
Foods you would find in the aisles:
- Whole grains! You gotta go in to get these: Think rice, quinoa, oats, cereal, crackers, nut & seed bars. Did you know Americans are short on fiber?
- Spices – cinnamon, ginger, chile powder! How else would you get these?
- Beans of all kinds – this is a superfood to me (protein, fiber, delicious)
- Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables – low sodium/syrup options can be much more affordable
- NUT BUTTERS
- Corn chips: chips and salsa is a great snack compared to many other options, look for low sodium options of both
- Frozen vegetarian options like veggie burgers make great quick lunches
- Frozen shredded chicken is something I often buy
- Seltzer water or lower calorie options for those that prefer some excitement over plain water – I buy Crystal Light packets and it really helps me drink more water than I normally would (it’s all about small steps)
- Coffee grounds – cheaper and usually healthier when making at home and adding in your own milk (or chocolate milk in my case 🙂 ) 1-2 cups daily is not harmful to health per the American Heart Association.
There are many other foods unmentioned in both categories, but as you can see, this theory would cause you to miss out on several of the good foods, or might even tempt you to put donuts or high sugar smoothies from the perimeter into your cart on a whim. I encourage you to shop BOTH areas, and focus on balanced meals using a variety of food formats (fresh, canned frozen etc.) to put together a doable, cost friendly meal that meets dietary guidelines. Sometimes, getting back to basics is the place to start. Expecting someone to put only produce items into their cart and make an entire meal is unrealistic and often more expensive. Find the right balance of foods and do some comparisons with other products until you find what works best for you and your family’s health, schedule and budget.