Friday, October 14, 2011

Shopping the perimeter is no longer enough

For years, we've been advised to shop the outside areas of the supermarket, for that is where you will find the produce, meat, and dairy. No longer.

My local stores have remodeled. We must now zig-zag in and out of the dangerous "center of the store" to get what we need; the produce is in the center, meat at the back, dairy in a center aisle near the salty snacks, beer and wine are found chillin' on the outskirts (right next to the pharmacy in fact), the cheese isn't even with the rest of the dairy, but placed near the deli meats and olive bar, which are uncomfortably close to the cake (mmm... cake). It's not enough that they've pushed you into the interior, but they arranged the layout to force you to march through nutritional minefields to get at the healthy and natural foods that you came to the store to buy.

Have they adapted over time to overcome our new tendency to avoid their inner aisles and their high profit (and high calorie/low nutrition) foods? Are our stores evolving, or is it the intelligent design of the Marketing Department up at HQ? Someone's in charge up there, cuz this doesn't just happen!

...and they are not alone... Farmer's Markets have the image of healthy and fresh foods, but this is not all that they sell.

In addition to the fruits, vegetables, and fresh local meat and seafood, they also have corn oil based tamales, shortening flavored pie and pastries, popcorn popped in soybean oil, plus all sorts of juices, candies, and bottled things mislabeled as healthy because they use things like agave, honey, or even fructose syrup!

Making these "foods" is not enough; it's as if they use huge invisible fans to push their scents toward the "safe" areas of the market. Damn them. If only they sold gas masks, too.

Finally, the term "health food store" is now almost meaningless. While you can find healthier ingredients at Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Fresh & Easy, and Whole Foods, do not make the mistake of thinking that cookies and cereal are find because they are organic or sweetened with rice syrup. If it comes in a box or bag, it's most likely bad for you.

In the end, you can no longer rely on the old advice, which was "shop the perimeter of the supermarket." You now have to think for yourself.

When possible, shop for raw ingredients, not processed foods. Instead of thinking if a food is merely bad for you, also consider if that food is actually good for you. Food is your fuel, so fuel your body with food that's good quality and healthy, not fuel that makes you lethargic, sick, or overweight.
"Food is fuel. Continue the march" -- Captain Dale Dye, USMC

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