Shop the Perimeter

Imagine your local grocery store. Close your eyes, and picture what you see as you’re walking through it. While there are obviously variations between different grocery stores around the country, most of them follow a similar pattern: the produce, meats, and dairy are located on the perimeter, and the boxed and bottled stuff is found in the aisles.

When shopping for groceries, I recommend that you follow a basic rule: for the great majority of the trip, stick to the perimeter of the store. This is where the whole, fresh food is found. At my local market, I walk in with my cart and make a left turn to the produce section. After stocking up on fresh vegetables and fruit, I head toward the back of the store for fish, eggs, and organic dairy. I might make a short detour for some hot sauce if we’re running low… but generally, I rarely venture into the aisles. There’s just not a lot of real food to be found there.

Now of course, there are a few exceptions: dried beans, legumes, and whole grains are often found in middle aisles. This may also be true for dried fruits and mushrooms, as well as seasoning items like sea salt, peppercorns, and dried herbs and spices. But, that’s about it. Most of the aisles are junked up with processed snacks, ready-made meals, and preservative-laden condiments. These industrially-made offerings aren’t on my shopping list, and they shouldn’t be on yours either. That stuff is not doing any favors for your health.

So, from me to you, here are some tips for keeping your grocery trip natural:

– Stay on the perimeter of the store as much as possible.

– When you do venture into the aisles, make sure that the foods you choose are real, whole foods: not those canned, boxed impostors. Anything with more than five ingredients is usually a bust.

– If you need a dressing, sauce, or gravy for your meal, skip the bottled versions whenever possible, and get ingredients to make it yourself. Delicious and nutritious dressings, sauces, and gravies are easy to make at home.

– If you’re looking for bread, consider baking your own at home from whole grains. You are in control of the ingredients so it will taste better, and it won’t be loaded with preservatives. If you’re low on time, consider investing in a bread machine.

– For seasoning your meals, learn to use herbs and spices. Whether it’s fresh herbs or dried spices, they can turn an otherwise simple meal into something spectacular. You can use them individually, in combinations, or even in pre-mixed spice blends for ethnic cuisine. Cooking with herbs and spices is one of the best ways to get disease fighting antioxidants into your diet.

That’s it! As a bonus, if you mostly shop the perimeter of the store, you’ll save a lot of time not weaving through congested aisles. It’s a win-win.

– Dr. Joshua Levitt

Here is what others are reading right now…