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Shop the Perimeter


The next time you shop for groceries, start at one end and go all around the perimeter, that is all around the outside of the store, close to the outer walls.

What exactly is perimeter shopping?

Shopping the perimeter is the practice of shopping the outside walls of the grocery store, including the produce, the deli, the fresh meats, and dairy section, and avoiding the pre-packaged, processed, dried, and canned foods. Basically, any foods that are available on interior store shelves.  While I personally fully support a plant based diet, fresh meats are also located on the perimeter. While I am still trying to convince you to switch to a completely animal free diet, in the meantime, visit the butcher shop and buy fresh meats not packaged.


It is healthier and more nutritional

The perimeter of the store is a healthier and more nutritional location than the rest of the store. The perimeter is where you find all your fresh produce, vegetables and fruit. When we talk about shopping the perimeter of a grocery store, what it really means is shopping the outer portion of the store and not the inner. The items on the perimeter are most conducive to helping you be successful with your weight loss. For instance, you go into a grocery store and usually once you get there you immediately see produce. So, right away, in your basket we’re looking to fill at least one half of that basket with produce and then we move around the grocery store.

The perimeter also consists of more whole and organic foods. Whole foods are necessary when eating clean whether or not you incorporate meat into your diet. Meat eaters will find fresh, lean, unpackaged options on the perimeter butcher shop. However, remember you should aim for a minimum of 50% of every meal to be fresh produce.  Cooked or raw is ok but fresh.

Keeping fresh food in the house is one of the most challenging parts of maintaining a good, fresh, nutritionally sound meal plan.  Restaurant eating, with few exceptions, is not a healthy course of action unless it is done carefully.  Fast food eating is nearly universally a bad habit, with even the healthier choices being devoid of real nutritional value.  Salad bars can even be a minefield. 

There is nothing wrong with frozen vegetables if that is what it takes to keep vegetables in the house.  However, truly great nutrition requires fresh vegetables. Raw as well as cooked vegetables can undo a world of sins in the snacking department.  They also offer a long life in the refrigerator if the right choices are made. Be sure to look at ingredients though if you buy frozen veggies. Be sure it is 100% fruit or vegetable with no added ingredients. For example, broccoli in cheese sauce. I digress

The perimeter will also include diary items. However, most if not all grocery stores will include non-diary items within the diary department. So, look for it. I use non-diary butter, cheese yogurt and milk. I prefer pea milk because of its protein content. And Diaya cheese products because they taste yummy. Therefore, the diary area is a friendly area and supports a healthy life style.

  1. It can help you save money on groceries

The Perimeter is where you will pick up the savings. You’ll also find fresh produce that is loose or bundled. These items are generally lower in cost compared to highly processed food. If most of your diet consists of more whole foods, not only will you save money, but you will also be eating a much healthier diet than the average family does. Shopping the perimeter of your store will significantly lower your grocery bill.

For example, bulk items. At my local whole foods, where I shop, the perimeter isle has bulk teas, grains, beans and seeds. I buy oatmeal in bulk for example. It saves much more over packaged oatmeal. They even have organic options.

Are you a snacker? Do you constantly find yourself at your job’s vending machine? Not only is the vending machine not good for you, it’s expensive. Instead buy your snacks at the grocery store perimeter. Celery and carrots in particular pack a good crunch, and are far better than the average offerings of the office vending machine.  Obviously fresh carrots and celery are better, but if 3pm snacking is habitual, be prepared with having healthy options on hand will save you. Try the nuts in the bulk department. I personally buy only the nuts and seeds that I like and create my only trail mix. It saves me a lot than buying a prepackaged trail mix.

It helps you control what you eat and therefore lose weight.

Perimeter shopping keeps all the power of dietary control within the shopping cart – making fresh meals and good choices much easier, and keeping un-necessary carbs, dyes, preservatives and mystery ingredients to a minimum. When you choose what you want to eat as opposed to accepting what’s in the package, you are in control.  Furthermore, when you buy fresh non-packaged food you don’t have to look out for hidden ingredients. Like sugar in a frozen pizza.

Also, the dreaded bread section! It is packaged and found on the perimeter. So be sure to look at the nutritional content and be very selective of the bread you select. I understand that every package cries out to you as “healthy” by using words such as “multigrain” or “wheat” bread, and a lot of them are brown in color making you think these are “whole” grain breads. Just look for whole grain and the first word on the ingredient list should be the word “whole”. Also, look for the number of fiber grams; a good choice will have at least 3-5 grams per slice. We need to be sure to get enough     fiber in our diets. Also, look at the sodium content. Look for a bread low in sodium and high in fiber. And absolutely no sugar. This power of what you eat, will help you shed the weight.

Perimeter shopping is just one out of a great toolbox of options that one can employ to make everyday living a healthier (and tastier) experience.  A little creativity and a little more effort can really make a big difference in the big picture. So, leave your cart at the end and get your specific items and bring them back to your cart. This will keep you from putting extra stuff in your cart that is not on your list, and it gives you more steps counted on your pedometer! Good luck with healthy eating by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store.

Check out this video to see how shop!

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