Grocery stores are amply stocked with what’s best not to eat and much less with what to eat. Consider:
• The Mayo Clinic notes, “Most of us tend to spend the most time shopping in the center aisles when you really should spend the most time shopping in the outside perimeters of the store. This is where you’ll find the freshest foods, including produce, meat, and dairy. Fresh foods are generally healthier than the processed foods you’ll find in the center aisles.”
• Marion Nestle writes in her tome “What to Eat” that “there are too many choices; about 320,000 food and beverage products are available in the United States, and an average supermarket carries 30,000 to 40,000 of them.
• Consider how many varieties of cereal are in your supermarket. One estimate claims that the average supermarket carries 250 varieties.
The message is clear: supermarkets devote too much of their “food” space to heavily processed food-like items.
Limited healthy options:
In my blog post, “Why celebrate the wealth of seed varieties?” I noted that there are 10,000 – 15,000 varieties of tomatoes that exist in the world. While I’ll admit it would be unrealistic for your supermarket to carry much of a fraction of these, I still think it’s worth asking how many varieties you’d like them to carry. Does your store carry yellow, green, purple, white, or striped tomatoes? Does it consider the differing tastes or nutritional values of different tomatoes? Carrots? Corn? Apples?
The United States’ food system is broken in many ways. One of those ways is that in the name of efficiency, large-scale food production, distribution, and sale of produce means that we get that average supermarket carrying 250 cereal varieties but only a few different types of tomatoes and a handful or so of apples. Is it really okay that the healthiest food for us is provided in such limited varieties?
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