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Choosing a More Nutritious Grocery Store

Study says the quality of people's food choices may depend on which stores they visit.

The stores we choose can influence the nutritional value of the food we buy. That’s a key finding of a 2018 study reported in Preventive Medicine. The researchers obtained data on 4,962 shoppers from the USDA’s national Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, which collects comprehensive data on the foods Americans buy.

The study used the Healthy Eating Index (which tracks how well foods align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans) to compare people’s purchases at different kinds of grocery stores. Key findings:

  • Food purchased at natural/gourmet stores had a higher Healthy Eating Index than food bought at large supermarkets.
  • Food bought at “other” retailers (including convenience stores) had the lowest Healthy Eating Index.
  • Older shoppers, women and those with more education made significantly healthier purchases.

Thus, it can help to find out where your clients buy most of their groceries and then steer people toward more nutritious choices at those stores. Keep in mind that eating a healthy diet is especially challenging in so-called “food deserts,” where the only choices are small convenience stores packed with processed foods.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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