Shopping the perimeter of grocery stores has been an oft-repeated recommendation of nutritionists. The outer periphery of stores is where fresh produce and other healthy foods are found. The aisles have a reputation of offering processed foods high salt, sugar, and added ingredients that shoppers could do without.
I decided to tour my own store and take note of foods in the perimeter to see if my shopping advice needed a revision or at least a few caveats.
Walking into the store the shopper is first greeted by a display of candy and savory snacks. OK, Halloween is not far away, so I’ll give the store a break. And to be fair, this store does display fresh fruit here during the summer.
Continuing on, one navigates through a maze of fresh bakery displays including cookies, brownies, and pies. The smell is divine, but I know that the fat and calorie content is not so desirable. The freshly baked whole grain breads are also in the area, but several steps away.
The deli is next. This area is well supplied with creamy slaws, macaroni and potato salads, specialty crackers and cheese, and fresh lunch meats. Read labels well to determine type of fat and calorie content of the packaged foods. No trans fat and low saturated fat items are preferable such as the lean chicken and turkey, and whole grain crackers and pocket breads.
On to the fresh produce section. This area is well stocked with fruits and vegetables, a great area to spend some time. Seasonal foods are the best buy. I try to buy whole veggies and fruit instead of already cut-up varieties, both for value and nutrition.
Opposite this section is the processed meat case with bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. For those trying to reduce fat, salt, or certain additives, this would be a place to tread lightly. Look for meats with low sodium and fat content.
Turning the corner, the shopper walks by the fresh fish, chicken, and meat cases. There are also freezers here with frozen options as well. Healthier cuts of meat include those with round or loin in the name.
Chicken breasts are a good choice, too, but watch portion size. Chicken parts are substantial, and three ounces of meat or poultry is the standard portion. This is the size of a lady's palm. If one prefers fish, go for the fatty varieties such as salmon because of the heart-healthy omega 3’s they provide.
Continuing along this outer area brings the shopper to the dairy case with varieties of full-fat and low-fat cheeses, yogurts, milks, eggs, and various substitutes for these foods. Again, label reading is a must. Wise choices are needed so that one takes advantage of the calcium, protein, and other nutrients without adding extra calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat.
Onward to the margarine. Again, there are better choices than others. Soft tub margarines with no trans fat are good choices to keep cholesterol in line. Specialty margarines with plant sterols can help reduce LDL cholesterol if it is elevated.
And if one can make it past the refrigerated cans of dinner rolls and cinnamon treats, and cookie dough (did I see chocolate chip?) then the shopper has completed the food portion of the perimeter.
All in all, there definitely are some healthy food options in the perimeter. But there are also options that are high in fat, sodium, sugar, and calories. Read labels to make wise choices for your health no matter where you shop in the store.
The articles written by Andrea Wenger, Birmingham Diets Examiner, are for informational purposes only and are not to be used in the place of medical advice. Please contact a licensed physician or other medical professional before changing any health care routine or before starting any diet, fitness, or exercise program. Although every effort has been made to include the most current information, new information is released daily and may cause some recommendations to change.