You may have heard that a smart grocery shopping tip is to ‘power shop the perimeter’ of the grocery store when considering nutrition – where all the healthy produce, meats/fish and dairy are. Here’s why that’s a myth, and why smart grocery shopping can ALSO include the inner aisles.

While the common thought is to only shop the perimeter (and that’s not completely wrong), I recommend starting on the perimeter, using it to fill most of your cart with produce and a quarter with protein – whether from animal or plant sources), which include fruits, veggies, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.

It might be tempting to stop there, but there are some nutrient-dense options that can only be found in the middle aisles that you would be missing out on if you skipped them! Here are some other smart grocery shopping tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

Smart Grocery Shopping Tips for the Inner Aisles of the Store

Plant-Based Sources of Protein

Sometimes tofu and meat substitutes are found on the perimeter, but another important staple is legumes (beans and peas), which are found in the aisles. You can choose to buy dried beans for cheaper and cook them from scratch, or you can choose to buy canned beans for convenience and rinse them before serving. Either way, legumes will pack your plate with protein and soluble fiber, which is great for gut health and satiation. This type of fiber is digested slowly, helping to control blood sugar and stave off cravings later in the day.

Whole Unprocessed Grains

Many grains are ultra-processed, turning them to food that can increase our hunger hormone ghrelin and leave us wanting more. However, the middle aisles hold the important whole, unprocessed grains such as quinoa, brown rice, oats, barley, and more. These nutrition powerhouses give our bodies energy through quality carbohydrates and B vitamins.

Related: heading to the store? Bring this checklist for shopping organic along with you!

Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Fresh isn’t actually always best, which is why frozen fruit and vegetables are a good staple in the freezer aisle. During most seasons, most produce has to travel a far distance to get to Chicago, and all that time they’re losing valuable nutrients. When fruit and veggies are flash frozen off the vine, they maintain the nutrients our body can absorb a bit better. While fresh can be tastier and satisfying, don’t skip the frozen aisle to help stock up on produce! 

Smart grocery shopping tip: make sure there’s not a ton of added sugar or sodium to these foods. Look at the ingredient list to double check!

New and Interesting Products

While there’s a lot of products I wouldn’t recommend (low-fat and sugar-free labels, I’m looking at you), there are some great new products popping up on the shelves to balance out meals and snacks. Some of my current favorites are roasted chickpeas, pasta made from legumes, and snack bars made from fruit and nuts only. These all still follow my general rule of 5 ingredients or less and ingredients I’d have in my own kitchen!

Related: the airport can be a minefield of sugary snacks and bad choices. Here’s a guide that will help you navigate!

Want these smart grocery shopping tips & information individualized to you, specifically, on a grocery store tour with Amy? Email her at! You’ll spend an hour on the perimeter, in the aisles or both – which can help you determine the best choices for you and your family when shopping.

Post written by FFC Oak Park RD & Nutrition Coordinator Amy Silver.

About Amy

My passion for nutrition and fitness is shown through my personal life as well as in my career, and sharing that passion with others makes me excited to come to work every day. Here, I am able to combine my past experiences as a group exercise instructor and in clinical nutrition into one.

My personal goal is to work together with patients to determine what behavior changes they’re ready to make, and how to incorporate them into their lives. Using motivational interviewing skills, my patients will leave my office feeling ready and able to reach their goals.

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