There is an abundance of nutrition information just about everywhere and it seems everyone has an opinion about the latest food trend. Let's clear something up, nutrition is a science, not an opinion. But, it doesn't stop people from making unresearched, unscientific food claims and clickbait articles about the latest food trends. This can make nutrition much more confusing than it has to be, leaving you unsure of what to believe.
In this weekly series, I'm going to clear up nutrition myths that dietitians everywhere want you to forget.
Myth: Only Shop on the Perimeter of the Grocery Store for the Healthiest Foods
FACT: Yes, the perimeter of grocery stores are loaded with fresh produce, meats, poultry, eggs, dairy etc. all of which are incorporated into a healthy diet. But, that doesn't mean the center aisles should be completely ignored!
Those center aisles can be great places to find foods rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins/ minerals, and fiber. Not to mention, they can be cheaper than some foods on the perimeter. For instance, foods like beans, rice, nuts, spices, seeds/ seed oils, bread, canned fruits/veggies, frozen fruits/veggies etc. are all found in the center aisles and can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan.
Seasonings and Spices
If you are only shopping the perimeter of the store then I'm guessing the foods you are buying and preparing are pretty bland! You will find herbs, seasonings, and spices in the center aisles that will help make your foods taste WAY better. I'm guessing at some point you will AT LEAST add olive oil, salt, and/or pepper to your food to make it taste better. Guess what, that's found in the center aisles.
Center aisles also provide convenience for food and meal preparation. Unless you prepare everything from scratch (good for you, I just don't have the time), center aisles can provide limited ingredient dressings, marinades, and rubs that I don't have the time (or willingness) to make. So, feel free to venture into those center aisles and safe yourself a ton of time at home when preparing your meals
Foods high in whole grains are found in the center aisles. Whole grains are high in B vitamins and fiber (among others). Look for products that QUANTIFY the number of whole grains in the food item. Packages should say "100% Whole Grains" or "100% Whole Wheat". Beware of food items that just say "whole grains" on the package, that doesn't mean the entire product is made with whole grains.
Canned/ Frozen v.s. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Canned and frozen fruits/ veggies are found in the center aisles. These can be great options especially because they don't need to be eaten right away. We've all been there, we buy too many bananas, strawberries, grapes, cherries etc. and you never finish them in time and in just a few days they go right into the trash because they have expired. Frozen and canned varieties give you the flexibility to eat them on your own schedule without the fear of going bad.
But, What About the Nutrition Content?
Good question, studies have found the nutrient density of frozen varieties of fruits and vegetables are "comparable to and occasionally higher than that of their fresh counterparts" Furthermore, studies have found canned fruits and vegetables "Results suggest canned vegetables + canned fruits consumption was associated with higher intake of select nutrients, a higher-quality diet, and comparable adiposity measures and blood pressure" (compared to non-consumers). So, if this is the only way you can/ willing to get them, its better than nothing.
Center aisle foods can be healthy, tasty, affordable, versatile, and sustainable than their counterparts on the perimeter of the store. Keep in mind,
you should never discount reading the entire package, yes including the nutrition facts and ingredients list on the back. You should always be checking food labels to make sure you know exactly what you are buying and eating. But, don't discount certain food groups just because of their location in the store, you would be missing out on loads of healthy foods!