I am always trying to increase the nutritional value of our meals and snacks, making tweaks to recipes here and there. And making sure that I practice what I preach an as RD. With this goal in mind, one day I decided to mindfully shop the perimeter of the local grocery store to see if my recommendations to do so are valid.
Walking into the store the shopper (me) is first greeted by a display of candy and savory snacks. OK, the holidays are not far off, 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. I need to advise people to read labels in this area to determine type of fat and calorie content of the packaged foods. For heart health, no trans fat and low saturated fat items are preferable such as the lean chicken and turkey cold cuts, 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 make a mental note to recommend 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.
Turning the corner, the shopper will next walk by the fresh fish, chicken, and meat cases. There are also freezers here with frozen options as well. Healthier cuts of meat that I usually recommend are plentiful and include those with round or loin in the name.
This store stocks plenty of chicken, but shoppers need to watch portion size. Chicken parts are substantial nowadays, and three ounces of meat or poultry is the standard portion. My reference visual for three ounces is a lady’s palm.
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. As seen on other sections of the store, 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.