Winning Hearts and Minds in the Produce Aisle
Posted: December 13, 2011
The multitude of studies showing the health benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables continues to grow. The message has made an impact on consumer buying habits, and now we see shifts in supermarket dynamics and product placement. Manufacturers of processed foods have taken notice of the prime real estate in the produce area – an area associated with freshness and health!
You have probably noticed the placement of processed foods in the produce aisle, an attractive and bright area near the store entry. Examples are packages of tortilla chips and salsa placed near fresh avocados, as a natural pairing for Southwestern cuisine. Other examples are pudding mix and vanilla wafers near the bananas, or strawberry glaze near the berries. These natural pairings give consumers ideas for meal preparation that may spur purchases. Proximity to fresh produce also has a “halo effect”, transferring the image of freshness and healthful qualities to items placed nearby. Expect to see greater inclusion of non-produce items in the produce aisle as food merchandisers try to showcase healthy aspects of their products and link them to freshness.
Eating more produce is supported by MyPlate, the USDA food guidance educational tool. It encourages us to fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Consumer interest in fresh produce is validated by a recent survey by Supervalu Inc., showing fresh produce quality as the primary factor in choosing a grocery store, reported by Sarah Nassauer of WSJ.com.
This is great news in the nutrition world, as fruits, berries, potatoes, beans, and other vegetables are naturally low or void in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, as well as sodium. Many are rich in potassium, helping to balance excess sodium intake. Calories and carbohydrates are moderate to low, with a rich content of fiber. For people with diabetes, who need to limit carbohydrate, the fiber helps balance the slightly higher carbohydrate content of the starchy vegetables and fruits.
By consuming greater quantities of fresh produce, we can fill up on fewer calories, while giving the boot to foods high in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats. This is the replacement principle –we fill up on healthy foods, making less room for unhealthy alternatives. This simple change can be both delicious and helpful in preventing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. For those working toward a healthy weight and/or lower blood sugar, the non-starchy vegetables are especially helpful, as they can be eaten in larger quantities, helping to fill us up without exceeding our caloric needs or carbohydrate limits. The starchy vegetables include corn, English peas, lima and other beans (except green beans), winter squash and potatoes, and they do provide many nutrients. Almost any other vegetable is fair game as a non-starchy vegetable, having the lowest caloric and carbohydrate content of the produce aisle. So, go along with the trend and stock up on nature’s best preventive medicine – fresh fruits and vegetables!
Rayna Cooper is a Registered Dietitian and Family & Consumer Sciences/Nutrition Educator serving Penn State Extension in Adams County. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce. Penn State Extension in Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 334-6271, email email@example.com.
1. Do R, Xie C, Zhang X, Männistö S, Harald K, et al. (2011) The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study. PLoS Med 9(10): e1001106.