Do You Work the Perimeter?

A simple tip for healthy eating is to stay on the perimeter of the store when doing your grocery shopping. The perimeter of a grocery store is more likely to carry the less-processed products compared to the center of the grocery store. There’s a practical reason for this: most supermarkets are designed to have the perishable products on the outer rim of the store because it helps control refrigeration costs.

Although there has been decades of growth in the “center of the store,” many food companies are seeing stagnant sales in this space, and as a result, they

“are responding with a variety of tactics, like attempts to add pizzazz and flair to the products they sell in the center of the store and making acquisitions that give them a better toehold on the perimeter.”

According to food companies, retailers, and consumer experts:

“business in the perimeter was growing in part because of the demand from younger consumers for fresh foods and foods that are perceived as wholesome and unprocessed. At the same time, older consumers are looking for healthier foods and juices.”

“…people are shopping much more frequently today than just a few years ago. They’re coming in for a fresh produce transaction, for tonight’s dinner transaction. I think the bigger shift has to do with how people are using grocery stores than with specific categories of food that are on the perimeter or in the center.”

1. Do you purposefully try to stay on the perimeter when doing your grocery shopping? Would it be confusing to see major changes in this part of the store?

2. Do you believe the layout of a grocery store can influence the healthfulness of your purchases?

3. Is it surprising that food companies have a significant influence over the placement of their products? Or that it’s possible to pay a higher price to have a product stocked in a more “appealing” location?

What do you think?

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Does School Food Policy Have an Impact on Obesity?

A recent study from the academic journal Pediatrics reported that strict regulations on foods outside of the traditional school meals program were associated with healthier weight among children. This study provides support to the notion that policy can be used to craft healthy food environments. The New York Times recapped this recent finding this past week:

The study, published Monday in Pediatrics, found a strong association between healthier weight and tough state laws regulating food in vending machines, snack bars and other venues that were not part of the regular school meal programs. Such snacks and drinks are known as competitive foods, because they compete with school breakfasts and lunches…

 

Some experts argue that a real reduction in the obesity rate will come only when many more local governments adopt tough policies to change the food environment. Still others say that school is such a small part of a child’s day that healthier options will make little difference when coupled with a home environment with a lot of unhealthy choices.

Here are the questions that I was left with after reading the article:

1. How much does the school environment really impact a child? And in what ways does it interlace with the home environment?

2. Does school policy have an impact on a child’s dietary behavior?

What do you think?

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Not Your Grandmother’s Hamburger

NPR did a little feature on what’s in a school lunch hamburger. It was a thought-provoking piece that I wanted to share with you all. Here are some of my takeaways:

1. The food scientist in this video points out that this burger may not be the best option for a child that is likely getting an adequate diet at home. However, for many children, this meal is likely to be the most nutritious one they consume during the day. Is this a band-aid for a larger problem?

2. The extra ingredients, for the most part, add up to a multivitamin going into a hamburger. Is it better to go this route, or is it better for kids to get their vitamins and minerals from real foods?

3. Soy flour is added to bump up the protein amount – but aren’t most Americans getting enough protein?

4. A host of ingredients are added to make the burger more palatable (torula yeast, caramel coloring). Shouldn’t burgers taste good without all this added stuff?

Click image to view video

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Obesity in the Limelight

Ever wanted to get a crash course in the obesity issues impacting our country? Now’s your chance. In an unprecedented collaboration, HBO, the CDC, and the Institute of Medicine have teamed up to create “The Weight of the Nation,” a four-part documentary on obesity in America. The overview of the miniseries looks promising, with segments covering health consequences, behavioral choices that pack on pounds, the impact of overweight on today’s youth, and the broader context that contributes to weight gain. You can catch the films on HBO on Monday 5/14 and Tuesday 5/15, or online (they’ll be streaming it for free). Here’s the trailer for the documentary:

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Link of the Day – March 2012

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Why We Should Cut Back on Sweeteners

Last night’s 60 Minutes episode featured a segment on sugar and how its overconsumption has led to many negative health effects. The report, done by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, doesn’t cover the obvious effects of too much sugar (that it means more calories, and in turn, overweight and obesity). Instead, Dr. Gupta speaks with eminent researchers in endocrinology, oncology, neurology and public health who have been building a body of evidence that supports sugar’s role in many different diseases. Note that “sugar” means any type of added sweetener here – honey, evaporated cane juice, agave syrup, etc. Check out this short segment to get all the details (shoutout to Dr. Bob Lustig and the piece of hardware on his right hand!).

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The Cycle of Poverty and Poor Nutrition

Poverty and nutrition are tightly linked. Whenever I am thinking about how to get large numbers of people to eat better, I will inevitably run into a hurdle that is related to socioeconomic status. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, knows this better than I do and has summed up the concept quite effectively. If you are a visual learner, take a look at the image below. If you are a verbal learner, read the text below.

“In 
developed 
countries
 relatively 
cheap 
processed
 foods
 with 
a 
long
 shelf 
life 
are 
more
 available
 to 
poorer
 population 
groups
 than
 fresh 
food. 
Nutritional
 habits
 are 
often passed
 down 
in 
families, 
meaning
 that
 children 
growing
 up 
with 
a 
diet 
high 
in 
salt, 
sugar 
and 
fat, 
and
 low 
in micronutrients,
 are 
likely 
to 
retain 
these
 eating 
habits 
and 
to 
become 
overweight
 or
 obese
 as 
adults,
 making
 them
 vulnerable
 to
 a 
host
 of
 health
 conditions.
 The
 costs
 of
 managing 
this,
 and 
the 
impacts 
of
 their
 weight 
on 
their 
working 
capacity, 
keep
 them 
mired 
in poverty.
 This will
 make 
processed
 food 
more 
available 
to 
their 
household
 budget.”

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