The 10 Healthiest Grocery Stores In America As Rated By Health Magazine
Posted Jan 15 2009 11:46pm
The November Issue of Health Magazine featured an articleAmerica’s Healthiest Grocery Stores. Speaking as one who prefers one-stop shopping as well as feels that while I want to buy the healthiest products and ingredients for my family it is not always economical or practical for me to shop the health food stores. Given my desire to find more affordable and healthy solutions for my family right at the grocery store this article really appealed to me. It offered the promise that if you are geographical fortunate maybe you can accomplish the same mission but without having to step any further than your local grocery store.
To obtain this list of “10 standout supermarket chains” that offer the freshest and healthiest foods Health Magazine asked six “prominent health experts” to compare 35 of the nation's largest retailers. In order to come down to the top ten the experts compared these retailers on freshness of produce, availability of healthy prepared and packaged food products, and the store's dedication to delievering nutrition and health nformation to their customer base.
Cross your fingers and hope you’ ve been geographically blessed, here’s their list of the top ten healthiest supermarket chains.
Whole Foods– With over 275 stores nationwide it is probably a no- brainer for most of you that Whole Foods made the cut. It is one of the first “natural-foods” supermarket chains and is considered by these experts to offer the “Rolls-Royce of healthy eating.” Whole Foods believes that whenever possible they will buy products that are grown or produced locally. They offer a wide variety of fresh organic and conventional fruits and veggies, grass-feed meats, free range chickens and fresh seafood. For those of us suffering a time crunch Whole Foods also offers prepared meals that just don’t play lip service to being made with the healthiest of ingredients. When craving something sweet you will find that every item in the bakery department at Whole Foods is “free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and trans fat.”
Educated Thought – While I would love to do all my shopping at Whole Foods, I must say they are also quite expensive compared to other supermarkets, which one could argue they might have to be since they are offering the healthiest selection of products and ingredients. If money was not an issue I would probably shop here more often.
Safeway– At 1,700 grocery stores nationwide Safeway is at first blush a mega-supermarket chain. According to this article they are in a stage of transformation and have started offering their own more affordable organic brands and a selection of locally grown produce. They are also taking the lead in offering an on-line “Food Flex” program that allows shoppers to analyze their store purchases based on dietary recommendations and guidelines and then when needed will offer alternative solutions. According to one expert “It’s like having your own registered dietitian.”
Harris Teeter– A relatively small chain with slightly more than 170 stores in the Southeast. While they have a massive selection of fruit, veggies and non-farm raised seafood it was their healthy shopping tools that allowed them to take third place. Among their health initiatives are shelf tags that help to clearly denote the nutritional value of food items (i.e. “excellent source of fiber).
Trader Joe’s– 300 stores and growing. Trader Joe’s is widely known for their private label brands that are free of artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, trans fats, genetically modified ingredients and no MSG or nitrates – you will not find big corporate brands like General Mills or Proctor & Gamble here. The article pointed out that Trader Joe’s would have placed higher on the list if not for their limited selection. While the products at Trader Joe’s are definitely worth the trip you’ll probably still need to set foot in a more traditional grocery store.
Educated Thought – I truly piety anyone that does not have a Trader Joe’s near them. It is one of my all time favorite places to shop for affordable, unique and every changing natural food products. It is the only place I will buy family staples like 100% whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, prepared cookies, organic milk and yogurt, among other items. These items are relatively healthy and much more affordable in comparison to traditional grocery and health food stores. In fact, when we were living in Maryland for several years, once a month I would make a pilgrimage to the Trader Joe’s that was about an hour from our home – once it is in your blood it is a tough place to give up. Fortunately, we now live about 15 minutes from one.
Hannaford- Only in the Northeast with over 165 stores. Remarkably Hannaford is the largest certified-organic supermarket in the region. It receives its produce from more 200 farms close by, contributing to more than 50 locally grown or produced products. Similarly to many of the other stores mentioned, it offers in-store nutritional assistance in the form of their “Guiding Stars” rating system. This program rates the healthfulness of food items based on a one, two, or three star system where three stars represents the most in nutritional value. For those of us obsessed with reading labels this would cut down on the time we spend in the store.
Educated Thought – After I read this article I remembered that there is a Hannaford ’s about 20 minutes from my home but not in a direction I ever travel. This article incited me to give it a go and I must say I was a bit disappointed in this particular store. I did not see the range of products described and no sign of the “Guiding Stars” rating system. Also, I did pick up a loaf of bakery-made bread that contained HFCS –maybe these healthful changes hasn ’t made it here yet. I personally felt the prices were a bit high (at least as high as my local supermarket) and did not offer me anything I could not find there. With that being said I did pick up for my family preservative-free store-brand turkey sausage that was reasonably priced and quite good.
Albertsons– Over 525 stores all in the West. Offers an extensive line of store-branded organic products called Wild Harvest, which is usually 15% less than brand name organics. Wild Harvest does not use artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colorings or flavorings and stays away from hydrogenated oils. They also offer a cool program called Healthy Eaters. Healthy Eaters is designed specifically for kids and it allows children to take a tour of the store with a registered dietitian – great field trip idea!
Educated Thought – Shaw’s, which is where I do the bulk of my family’s grocery shopping, is owned by the same company as Albertsons. Since it first appeared in my store several months ago I’ ve been buying many of the Wild Harvest products and have become quite a fan of these products as well. As the article pointed out, Wild Harvest is very reasonably priced organic and natural store-brand and can frequently be found on-sale and has products in virtually every aisle of the store. When I can’t make it to Trader Joe’s Wild Harvest has become my next go-to option.
Food Lion– Huge chain with 1,300 stores in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Interestingly, Food Lion is owned by the same company as Hannaford. Well stocked organic fruits and veggies and it also offers its own organic store-brand, Nature’s Place. Like Hannaford it has the “Guided Stars” program.
Publix Super Markets– Southeast based with 952 stores. Like many, it has its own store-brand natural and organic products, GreenWise. It has nutritional programs designed to educate pregnant women and new moms on healthy eating as well as one designed for children. Apparently it is in the process of testing an off-shoot store, PublixGreenWise Market that will focus on organic and natural products.
Pathmark– With 141 stores in the Mid-Atlantic Pathmark is the “largest retailer of locally grown produce in the Northeast.” It’s Live Better! Program encourages healthier eating by offering discounts on fruits and vegetables as well as an on-line program that provides healthful meal ideas and recipes.
SuperTarget– 239 SuperTarget stores in 21 states. Would any shopping list be complete without Target? SuperTarget offers a wider variety of natural brands than its leading competitor (you know who you are). It also has its own natural store-brand, Archer Farms, which offers a range of inexpensive products including cereals, snacks and baked goods.
Educated Thought – While I do not have a Super Target nearby I can attest that I’ ve tried many of the Archer Farms products with a high degree of satisfaction – my family especially likes the Archer Farm’s 100% Whole Wheat White. My only complaint would be that it is frequently sold-out when I shop. Also, Target is one of the few places outside the health food store that I can find family lunch box staples like Honest Kids Juice Pouches and the full line of Annie’s snacks among some other more healthy brands that are slightly cheaper at Target.
To find out if any of these stores are within a reasonable distance to your house click on the supermarket’s name above and it will take you directly to their website where you can search the store locator. You can also read more from this article by clicking the link above.