Your entire healthy eating plan begins at the supermarket. After all, how are the snacks and meals you serve going to end up healthy if they don’t start out that way? A health-conscious grocer starts by offering a variety of good fruits, vegetables, and meats, limits their selections of unhealthy foods, and gives customers choices when it comes to eating organic and opting to buy locally grown produce. But the best stores go even further, providing customers with tools to help them make good buying and eating choices. That’s what separates these great supermarkets from the good ones.
1. Whole Foods
On virtually every list online, Whole Foods ranks at the top for healthy grocery shopping. If you’re trying to stick to any diet, Whole Foods has what you need to stay on track. They offer a hearty selection of produce, including organic selections, and their prepared foods are clearly labeled – so there’s no guesswork about ingredients if you’re worried about weight loss or other health concerns. Even their desserts are better for you, made without artificial colors, flavorings, sweeteners, preservatives, or even trans fats.
Safeway now offers their own line of organic products, as well as the O Organics line of packaged foods and the Eating Right line of prepared foods. Many of their stores have enhanced their produce section to offer even more fruits, vegetables, and fresh meats and seafood. Safeway has also initiated the Food Flex program, which allows customers to go online, analyze their purchases, and find healthier alternatives. When it comes to weight loss, this tool lets customers substitute foods that are causing problems in their diet with foods that help to keep them on track.
3. Harris Teeter
With one of the heartiest selections of fruits and vegetables anywhere (they boast 600 varieties), Harris Teeter features a generous selection of organic choices, and goes out of their way to offer lots of locally grown foods. Even the best grocery stores often have trouble getting their hands on non-farm raised seafood, but it’s plentiful at Harris Teeter. They also offer a couple of interesting tools to help shoppers make better buying decisions, including the Your Wellness for Life program that lists a food’s nutritional value right on the shelf, as well as the Green Thumb Expert, a program that puts an expert in each store who can help shoppers select produce and learn how to prepare it.
4. Trader Joe’s
The selection at Trader Joe’s isn’t as generous as what you’ll find at some of the stores that rank higher on this list, but there are still bountiful supplies of healthy foods from all over the globe. Trader Joe’s is also known for having better prices than some of the competition. You won’t find any of the mainstream brands that are notorious for unhealthy foods, and the store brand is made sans artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, MSG, trans fats, or genetically modified ingredients. They offer organic prepared meals, too.
In New England, Hannaford offers the largest selection of certified organic foods available at any other regional grocery store. Hannaford stores feature an abundant selection of locally grown produce, but what really sets these stores apart is their unique Guiding Stars program. Instead of simply listing a food’s nutritional information, Hannaford endows each product with 1, 2, or 3 stars. More stars equals a healthier selection. Consumers don’t have to read all of the nutritional labels on the peanut butter or loaf bread, they can simply pick the option with the better rating. It makes healthy eating a no-brainer.
But these grocery stores should beware! Other supermarket chains are jumping on the health wagon, and soon stores like Wild Oats Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Fairway Market might give them a run for their money.