Supermarket Secrets You Might Not Know… But Should!

Female checking food labeling in supermarket.Have you ever really thought about how and where foods are placed in your supermarket?

There is a reason the candy bars are placed at eye level and right next to the cash register.  It’s the spot where you wait in line and are more likely to make an impulsive purchase. Supermarkets are strategically laid out.  Fresh foods – fruits, vegetables, deli meats, seafood, dairy, eggs and baked goods all are placed along the perimeter of the market while all processed foods – those that are canned, boxed and have an extended shelf life are placed in the center aisles.


How to Shop at the Grocery StoreSupermarkets try to entice you to leave the store with a full cart.

Here are a few tips to make sure you fill it up with the right foods:

  • Don’t shop hungry. Easy to grab & go snack foods are conveniently placed all over the supermarket, especially at the checkout counter!
  • Start your shopping by walking around the perimeter of the store first. Fill up your cart with fresh foods before venturing in to the center isles.
  • As you enter the center of the store, buy only what you need.
  • Read ingredient labels (knowing that ingredients are listed by weight) and know the lingo that food companies use to imply that a food is healthier than it actually is.

Here are a few common food label terms to watch out for:

“Lightly-sweetened” does not mean low in sugar.  The Food and Drug Administration has regulations concerning the use of “sugar free” and “no added sugars” but nothing governing the claim “lightly sweetened.”

“Cholesterol free” does not mean the food is fat-free.  It can still contain up to 2 grams of saturated fat.

“A good source of fiber” can include nontraditional sources of fiber called “isolated fibers” such as polydextrose, but these substances have not been shown to lower blood sugar or cholesterol like natural fibers.

“Strengthens your immune system” sounds like a great choice, but just because a food contains vitamin C doesn’t mean it’s a health food if it’s also loaded with sugar.

“Made with real fruit” can be deceiving as sometimes the amount of added fruit is minimal and not even the same kind of fruit as pictured on the package.

“Made with whole grains” is a popular claim but check how much whole grain versus refined flour is in there.  Whole grain should be listed as the first ingredient.

“All natural” can mean anything as there is no regulated definition of this term. But rule of thumb, if you can’t read the ingredient list, it’s probably not “all natural”.

— Ilaria


  1. Beth says

    I agree Lara; If the ingredient list is too long or contains things I can’t pronounce or I do not recognize, then I do not purchase it! My husband makes fun of me (and gets slightly annoyed) because I check the ingredients on every single item I purchase; even on those items I purchase regularly because you never know when a company decides to change the “recipe”. And eating before you shop is a must!

  2. Pauline Longchamp says

    my practice is to shop the perimeter of the store only. exception would be perhaps a needed item or two, so most heartily agree.

  3. Sheryl says

    The “shopping the perimeter is best” is actually not the best advice. If you did only shop the perimeter, you would miss so many foods- specifically grains/legumes, unsaturated fats like oils/nuts. You just have to be an informed consumer and know WHAT to look for. As a Registered Dietitian, I teach my patients to look at labels, which gives them the knowledge on how to distinguish a healthier product. There are numerous healthy choices in the center isles of the store that you can’t get on the perimeter: whole grain pastas, barley, quinoa, whole grain breads, whole grain/high fiber cereals, dry beans, nuts/seeds, olive oil, etc.

  4. Jonathan Buffington says

    Great article, I pretty much stay in the produce section nowadays thank God. They cram so much stuff in the aisles you can’t move around, so I go late or really early to avoid the buggy traffic jams….I hate those.

  5. says

    My advice (not that I always follow it myself) is to stick to your list and ignore those SALE items calling to you on the end aisles. Buying those items is called SPaving. Your SPending money on things you don’t really need.

  6. Veronica says

    I find that using a grocery shopping app that organizes your grocery list also helps you with making selections. I use Grocery King and it tells you where your food is in the supermarket. That way I’m less likely to go into areas of the store that contain foods I don’t need. I also get my meats directly from the butcher at the grocery store. I have noticed that if you get chicken from the butcher, it’s smaller than the packaged chicken.

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