If youve ever felt manipulated by the impulse buys around cash registers (ChapStick, gum, condoms, key chains that have all three), you may have already realized the psychology behind grocery stores. The way they arrange and package food has a huge influence on whether you buy purple cabbage or purple-flavored globules of corn starch, and knowing how to navigate the aisles can be the difference between fitting in your favorite jeans and weeping openly while sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons.
HIT THE PERIMETER
When you walk through the automated glass doors of any grocery store, the first
thing you should note is layout.
"Hit the perimeter. Thats where all the whole, unprocessed foods are,"
says Christy Smith, a registered and licensed dietitian. She explains that while
processed foods are lacking (severely) in nutrition, they cost more than whole
foods, and the stores are in it for your cash. "Its all marketing.
They want to sell you the high-profit items cookies, soda, frozen foods
and staples dont tend to be big money makers," she says.
THE RIPE STUFF
One of the best ways to amp up the healthy side of your grocery cart is to fill
it with colorful food (the kind that gets its color from the earth, not a vat
of chemicals). Smith explained that colorful foods like fruits and vegetables
are always good for you, even the ones that have been pegged as sponges for pesticide
or natural sugar.
"Fill your cart. We all need more fruits and vegetables, period," she
says. "The more colorful the plant, the more nutrients it has, so go for
oranges, reds and deep greens."
If one thing is true about the average American eater, its that he likes
his meat. But "meat" means anything from processed substances like bologna
to prime beef to fish sticks.
"If were following a true health model, people who eat very little
animal protein live longer and have less cancer and less disease," Smith
says. "This is not very realistic for most Americans, and I dont want
to say stay away. You can eat whatever you want, just moderate it.
Try limiting red meat consumption and eating more poultry, eggs (the perfect protein)
and non-meat food sources like soybeans, dry beans, peas or nuts."
Dairy is one of the most controversial subjects in the food world. Experts argue
endlessly for its healthful and harmful qualities, and Smith admits that it is
not necessary to a balanced diet.
"There are other ways to get what you need, and a lot of people cant
handle it," she said. "However, its a good choice for people who
can as it is filled with nutrients. Calcium-fortified soy milk or orange juice
are great compromises."
Cheese is also a non-essential but tasty and perfectly acceptable addition to
your larder in moderation, of course.
When asked if there are any safe snacks on the "cookie aisle," Smith
"Do not go down that aisle," she chuckles. "Make your own, then
youll know whats in them." She reemphasized that processed foods
rarely have any redeeming nutritional qualities, while suggesting that if you
cant resist, go for the real thing.
"If youre going to buy an Oreo, buy an Oreo. Fat-free foods are often
higher in calories and sugar, and fat is essential ... we must become one with
RULES TO LIVE BY
In addition to creating a balanced food pyramid that works for you, be aware of
which items within each group are better than others. This means looking at labels,
comparing them and going for organics when you can find and afford them.
Making a shopping list is another good tactic as you will be less likely to grab
random things off the nearest, strategically placed shelf. This ties in to planning
menus before you hit the store, thereby looking ahead to wholesome meals made
with good raw materials.
"Youll spend a lot less money, and the money you do spend will get
you a lot further," Smith says. "But people are creatures of habit.
Were getting more and more overweight, and until people have a major reason
to change, they stay in a rut. They go to the store and buy the same 10 or 20
things every time; they dont buy seasonally; they get further and further
away from their roots the more harried they get ... Its not that hard to
eat healthy; you just have to make time for it."
© 2006, The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
Culture: Pre-2/21/2007 [Shop Smart]
Shop Smart: Beat the grocery Store at Their Own Game
By Erin Ryan
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Article posted on 2/27/2006
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