Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Shop the Perimeter": My Theory

If you're a reader of health magazines and such, no doubt you've come across the grocery shopping advice to "shop the perimeter of the store." In a nutshell this implies that the healthiest foods in the store are the ones found in the outer border of the grocery store.

I've heard this "tip" about 4000 times over the course of my career and I am making it my mission to toss it out the window. It should have been rendered obsolete right along with the 4 food groups! But just today I saw it discussed as a good tip by the dietitians in my professional email list.

I don't know about your local grocery store, but here's what I find at the perimeter:

  • dairy products (cheese has the highest amount of saturated fat of any food, and don't forget the butter, cream, etc.)
  • canned dinner rolls and refrigerated cookie dough
  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • hot dogs
  • cold cuts
  • bakery
  • deli
  • eggs
  • fruits and vegetables (yeay!)

Are these really the healthiest foods in the store? Well, yes to the fruits and vegetables, but the rest? I smell a rat.

Here's my theory. It's one of the most successful nutritional conspiracies of all time. I think the USDA made it up! After all, their job is to promote and protect the interests of animal agriculture, and they're all placed at the perimeter. Consider this: all of those things need to be refrigerated, and it is most cost-effective for stores to house their refrigeration cases against the walls. How convenient for "experts" to advise folks to shop the refrigerators--meat, dairy, eggs, (and produce).

Even your average nutritionist would agree that the following foods are an integral part of a health-supporting diet:

  • whole grains like brown rice
  • products based on whole grains (cereals, breads, crackers, etc.)
  • dried and canned beans
  • nuts and nut butter
  • seeds

If we shop the perimeter and ignore the aisles, we miss out on nature's healthiest foods (in addition to fruits and vegetables). So ignore the "perimeter" advice and rely on your common sense!

1 comment:

Alanna said...

Ha--love it! So true, the only thing good about the perimeter is the fruits and veggies. Perhaps it is time to do away with this tired old piece of nutrition advice.