All Aisles Matter at the Grocery Store
Have you ever heard the advice to only shop in the perimeter of a grocery store? I am sure you have in some capacity, as this is a very common blanket recommendation. However, I think it’s important to debunk this advice and point out how it can be harmful - both mentally and in how it impacts our food choices and variety. First of all, all parts of the grocery store contain food that can fit into normal, healthy eating because of the fact that all foods can fit into a nourishing pattern of intake. A positive relationship with food encourages flexibility, satisfaction and self-trust. And where does flexibility come in while you’re shopping at the grocery store? Yep you guessed it, by paying a visit to any and all aisles that you want and need products from. Let’s think about some of the food items that are not usually found in the perimeter of the grocery store that you would be missing out on if you only did a perimeter run:
Beans (dried and or canned)
Canned fruits and vegetables
Spices and seasonings
Snack food items (pretzels, chips, cookies, fruit snacks, popcorn, etc)
Pasta and rice
See! A list of 10 really awesome things (and there are so many more), that you’d be missing out on if you rigidly took the guidance to only stay on the outskirts of the store. A second consideration that’s important to raise regarding this kind of suggestion is how privileged it is. Not everybody has the same means of accessibility to get food items, an identical budget or the same food palette. If you don’t have a conveniently located full grocery store to shop at, it’s a moot point. For some they may need to or prefer to utilize corner stores, bodega, and farmers markets to get more of their food items and that is totally OK, but can be confusing when hearing the advice about a style of store that doesn't align with how they actually shop for themselves and their household. And let’s think about the items in the perimeter of most grocery stores that this advice is encouraging us to eat more of - fresh produce, dairy, meat and seafood come to mind first, AKA more expensive and fresh items. Not all of us can afford to buy mainly these things and not everyone has the means to keep items in a refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness. Finally, discounting the center aisles of most grocery stores also discredits the more ethnically diverse ingredients that may be more so found in these areas of a store. To encourage someone not to shop for food items that are reminiscent of their childhood or heritage is culturally insensitive and really misses the mark of knowing food is so much more than just what we put on our plates. If this is advice you’re adhering to or giving out to others, I challenge you to think about why this seems important to you and parsing out your values around this sentiment. You can still maintain your values but remember, there is absolutely no reason not to shop both the perimeter and any and all other aisles that you please!