Virtual Supermarket Tour: Part 1


Part 1 of the Virtual Supermarket tour: the perimeter of the store

Ever feel overwhelmed at the grocery store? Are there too many choices and you aren’t sure what is the best? This “virtual supermarket tour” will guide you through the grocery store and steer you toward healthy, cost-efficient choices.

The first section I will go over should be the part of the store you spend most of your time and buy most of your food. This is the perimeter of the store, which includes fresh produce, the deli, dairy, and eggs. This fresh food section of the store is where you will find the most nutrient dense food.

Let’s start with produce. One comment I hear frequently is “fresh produce is too expensive.” This is false if you know what to look for. A key concept for both fruits and vegetables is to always buy in season! In season produce is usually cheaper than fruits and vegetables that are not in season. On sale produce (which is frequently seasonal produce) is advertised in the front of the store. Not only will these fruits and vegetables be cheaper, they will taste better.  You can find links to charts that list which fruits and vegetables are in season in your state or region here.

Another common question is “Should I buy organic produce?” Organic food does not differ in nutritional value from non-organic food. However, if you are concerned about pesticides or want to be more eco-friendly, organic foods may be a good option.  A helpful rule of thumb is to go organic if you eat the entire fruit without peeling or cutting off any covering. These foods include apples, berries, broccoli, etc. However, foods such as bananas, oranges, and corn are peeled before eating, so they are more protected from pesticides.

When purchasing deli meats, watch the sodium level. Many deli meats and packaged meats have a huge amount of sodium added to preserve and flavor the item. Buy “low sodium” options and always check the label. Your sodium level should not exceed around 2,000 milligrams per day.

cheesepkgLet’s make our way around the store to the dairy and egg section. Dairy, including cheese, yogurt, and milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. However, it can be high and fat and calories. If you’re concerned about fat, when buying cheese, yogurt, and milk look for low fat or fat free options. You can buy cheese made with 2% milk that in my opinion tastes the exact same as the full fat version.

yogurtsugarAnother item that has an indefinite number of options is yogurt. There is light,Greek-style, fruit on the bottom, kefir, and many more. Greek-style yogurt has become very popular in the world of yogurts.  It’s strained longer, creating a thicker texture.  Greek-style yogurt also has more protein than conventional yogurt.

Sugar content tends to be high in many yogurts, especially individual portions. If I wanted that much sugar, I would just buy some ice cream!  If you buy a larger tub of low fat plain yogurt and add your own fruit and flavoring to it yourself, you will save calories and money. Add a little honey and fruit, and you have a healthy, low sugar snack.

All the different types of eggs can be confusing as well. This section usually consists of:

  • Brown eggs- laid by brown hens, do not differ nutritionally from white eggs
  • White eggs- laid by white hens
  • Cage free eggs- hens are uncaged inside barns, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors
  • Organic eggs- hens are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides
  • Omega 3 eggs- hens are fed a diet higher in Omega 3 content from sources such as algae

eggsHopefully, you now feel more comfortable shopping through the perimeter of your grocery store. You are on your way to becoming a savvy shopper!


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