One of the newest “nutrition education” groups to hit the web is The Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition (NRFC). Funded by twelve commodity groups, including the National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen’s Association, the group’s focus is on encouraging people to eat more nutrient-rich foods.
Not surprising, the foods being touted through its education materials and recipes are those produced by its members. (The members do include a number of commodity groups devoted to plant foods. But it’s an odd assortment, suggesting that groups are included based only on their willingness to pay a membership fee.)
The main tip that the NRFC gives for smart shopping is to “shop the perimeter of the grocery store.” In fact, based on their Supermarket Map, you shouldn’t ever step a foot away from the perimeter!
Honestly, this has to be the most tired and outdated piece of nutrition advice in the world. It dates back to the 1970s and it has long since lost its relevance. Sure, fruits and veggies are on the perimeter and you definitely want to spend a chunk of your food dollars there. But the rest of the foods that take up space along the perimeter of the store—meats, dairy, deli items, bakery goods—should play only a minor role in healthy diets. And for us vegans, most of these foods are not on our shopping list at all.
When I get to the grocery store, I start in the produce section. But the rest of my time is spent in the bowels of the store where I’m filling my shopping cart with brown rice, dried and canned beans, frozen veggies, pasta, spaghetti sauce, veggie burgers, olive and canola oil, peanut butter, dried fruits and nuts, and oatmeal. I might swing back out to the perimeter to pick up some hummus from the deli, a carton of soymilk, and maybe a bottle of cabernet. But most of the perimeter of the store is foreign territory to me.
Compared to someone who follows the advice of the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition and loads up their cart with pork chops, Swiss cheese and T-bone steak—all items that are recommended on their web site—I know my diet is a whole lot healthier!