The average American household spends about $4,300 per year at a grocery store. These dollars go towards a wide variety of food and beverages, but have you stopped to think about how we make decisions at supermarkets? Grocery stores are designed with two primary purposes: first, to keep food fresh, and second, to encourage us to spend money on groceries.
While this layout is created to get us to buy more, we can also use it as a strategy to make better choices.
Behind the Grocery Store Layout
In terms of keeping food fresh, stores need to have refrigerated sections for dairy, meat, and produce that is easy to stock and maintain. It is much simpler to maintain refrigerated sections when they are on the outer edges of the store. It is also much quicker (and therefore less risk of waste) to stock such shelves when they are very close to the truck loading area. While modern engineering has allowed some flexibility, in most stores, this original layout persists for convenience. Grocery stores are also designed to encourage you to buy more products, as you wander to the back for the staples, such as dairy and meat.
There are over 40,000 products in grocery stores, and most of them are in the center aisles. There is a bevy of poor choices to be made in the center aisles, and the more time you spend in them, the more likely you are to make bad choices.
Why Shopping the Perimeter is Better for Your Health and Weight Loss
As mentioned above, the center aisles are filled with poor choices. This is typically the area where the majority of processed foods can be found, and these are the foods you want to stay away from if you want to lose weight fast.
On the outer perimeter of the store is where you will more likely find your whole foods. These are the foods that are more natural and can be found in the produce section, the meat department, and the dairy section. Whole foods are better for weight loss because they contain less empty calories, and this will help keep you full, longer.
Finally, be aware that it is possible to make poor choices in the perimeter of the grocery store. Examples include purchasing red meat (vs. leaner meats) or loading up on cheese (vs. balancing with low-fat dairy). Similarly, there are a handful of minimally-processed foods that are part of a well-balanced diet that is found in the center aisles (oats, canned beans, and spices, for example).
Applying “shop the perimeter” is helpful as a general rule when used alongside tips on choosing healthy foods within the meat, dairy, and bakery sections. As you shop for your groceries, use good judgment when purchasing foods. If you are unsure about what to choose once at the grocery store, talk to your support team at Healthy Steps. Our trained weight loss professionals can help you make better choices the next time you go shopping.
If you are not already a member of Healthy Steps and are ready to lose weight, stop into one of our clinics today to get started or contact us to learn more.