How to Find Real Food at the Supermarket

by | Apr 24, 2013

Foodist Supermarket Navigation


Grocery shopping has never been more confusing than it is in 2013.

With conflicting nutrition information coming at us from all sides, navigating the supermarket can feel as impossible as doing long division while juggling loaded bear traps. It’s neither fun nor safe.

To help you find real food within the endless labyrinth of junk, I’ve put together this handy flowchart for your use and amusement. Consider it your supermarket GPS. If you ever get lost, just start back at the top.

I originally created a version of this flowchart back in 2011, but it has been updated and made far more awesome for my new book Foodist. Please share and enjoy.

May the food be with you.

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88 Responses to “How to Find Real Food at the Supermarket”

  1. Needs more bacon references. Otherwise, it’s a winner.

  2. LOVE this! Eeek! Don’t eat the light bulbs 😀

  3. Mike says:

    Love it. Could use a few arrows on the lines to make it easier.

  4. Joseph says:

    Love it, but was a little confused, might want to add arrows for the direction of the line.

  5. Jenn says:

    haha funny… though I’ve seen a lot of pet food with nutrition info on it…

    • Darya Pino says:

      Agreed. The kind I get has more nutrition info than I ever thought possible. But I didn’t get it at the grocery store. I think they’re just required to write ingredients.

  6. Bahaha. Love it.

    You should make a keychain so people can carry it with them in the Supermarkets 😉

  7. Sarah says:

    Ha! This is awesome. Definitely sharing it with everyone. 🙂

  8. Odille says:

    I love the flowchart – it is so good. The 5 ingredient rule is one I follow too, more than 5 and it does not get into my trolley.

  9. Kay Ballard says:

    Darya, I love your clever flowchart and agree with Nick that it would make a great keychain.

  10. Darya,
    I always love your stuff and this is no different! I cracked up about the dog food part because I have one dog-loving friend who actually learned the importance of reading food labels and how to read them appropriately when first buying food for her dog, not for herself! She called me up all excited telling me how to read the labels in order to get the best food for my dogs and I said, “Well, yeah, just like for us…”
    Her response, “It IS?”
    It was at that moment that I realized too many people are buying food without going through some sort of mental flow chart themselves – great idea to make a visual for us all! Next step – Is there an APP for that? 😛

    • It is so true that there are some people out there who think of feeding their pets healthy before they think of eating healthy themselves!
      I actually have had people buy flax from me and tell me it is for their pet. When we talk about how it could really benefit them, they’ve said things like: “Oh, no, I don’t eat healthy -only my dog does -She eats better than me”…
      So Crazy!
      Well, I guess the vet bills will be a lot less than the doctor bills will eventually be!
      Great flowchart and great discussion about what REAL food is! Thanks for the great site and for providing excellent education!

  11. Jamie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this flow chart, Darya! I think it can be quite a useful tool, as well as an amusing one, as well!

    Thank you for creating it for us!

  12. MissTdJ says:

    Am relieved to find out that wine, beer, & spirits count as Food. Yay for me!

  13. This is so great! I’m going to share it on Twitter and Facebook. My favorite is under the home improvement aisle “do not eat”.

  14. Pamela P says:

    This rocks!! I want to post it on my fridge!

  15. Peggy says:

    Definitely so true! Love this flowchart!

  16. Love this flow chart! Going to have to print it out, post on my coupon binder and reference with every grocery trip! Funny too!

    Bon appetit!

  17. CherylK says:

    Excellent! Am also passing it on.

  18. Love this! I found your site via the Food Inc. page on Facebook. I’ve already shared this link on my blog’s FB page. Makes reading labels seem more fun but also hopefully makes people stop to think about what they are actually eating!

  19. This is great although I could take issue with the bacon reference. I do love my bacon! 🙂 I’ll be passing this on to friends!

  20. Absolutely the BEST chart EVER!!! I want to share this with as many people as possible. You just made easy for everyone to know what’s real and what’s not. Thank you for creating this! Would it be possible to share this on my site, crediting you and the Summer Tomato website of course?

  21. Fiona says:

    Love it. *steals*

  22. Patrick says:

    Nice! Buying dairy products can take a while 😉
    I’ll post it in my blog, too (of course I’ll link to your website).

  23. Linda M. says:

    This is absolutely brilliant! I posted a link to this — it was just too good to NOT share!

  24. ChefandreaRD says:

    Love it! Thanks so much. I shared the link on my blog.


  26. Heather says:

    Love it! This would make a great poster!

  27. Reut says:

    This is great! I’ll share it on my site. Thank you.

  28. jsr says:

    Nice post! I actually hadn’t seen the diagram before, and it makes a lot of sense to me. My partner and I have nevertheless even decided to go a step further, and explained in a recent post why we have decided to stop buying food from supermarkets altogether… ( It will probably sound weird for most, but to us, it just makes sense!… Anyway, where do you buy your food then?


  29. dedioste says:

    Great idea! Funny and informative.

    But there is something that left me a bit puzzled.
    Where does common table salt falls in the flowchart? 🙂

  30. D. Duplessis says:

    Fantastic! I’ll definitely be sharing this with people!

  31. marae says:

    loaded bear traps??? Have some compassion. Go to and watch the live den cam of a mama and her baby bear and then make a joke of harming bears. 🙁

    • Darya Pino says:

      Technically if a person were juggling bear traps* while doing long division only the person would be harmed.

      *no bears were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

  32. stacey says:

    Hi Darya,
    I LOVE LOVE this poster! I’m a Canadian RD and am curious to know if this diagram is available in poster form? I think it’s a great resource!

  33. Chris says:

    Hi Darya,
    I just shared your great graphic on my blog. It’s a perfect visual for learning how to shop for food in the grocery store.

  34. Steve says:

    1) You have my vote for “Flowchart Of The Year” 😉
    2) Where is the iPhone App? You are going to have one? huh?
    3) I am confused, I tried to run a Twinkie with the flowchart and it ended up as “household product with dog food not suitable for storage in chemical aisle” Am I doing something wrong?

  35. I took the liberty of translating the chart into swedish. I hope you don’t mind.

  36. Carol says:

    What is that about bacon? I love this!


  37. I love this chart, and this blog. Reposted and linked at my blog.

    I just started eating consciously for the first time in my life – analyzing everything I eat before it enters my body. It’s been am adventure so far, and it’s only been about a month.

    I’m tracking my progress at a

    I just started blogging, so take it easy on me.

  38. Nat says:

    It’s a nice idea, but 5 ingredients? Really?

    So glad to hear the banana muffins I bake at home are not “real food” since they have more than 5 ingredients (2 kinds of flour, baking powder, banana, sugar, oil, nuts)
    Or that the almond milk I buy because I can’t drink cow milk is not “real food,” because the manufacturer added calcium so my bones won’t crumble when I’m 80 – so it has more than 5 ingredients (almonds, water, sugar, salt, vanilla, calcium salts)
    Or that fresh baked sourdough bread is not “real food” if you use more than 1 flour (wheat, rye) because that pushes ingredients over 5 (wheat, rye, water, yeast, salt, sourdough starter)
    … Conclusion? it’s better to READ the ingredients than COUNT them 🙂

    Latin in the list is not necessarily a bad thing either – would you say that live yogurt is not “real food” because the label names the bacterial cultures in Latin (L. acidophilus, etc) ?

    • Darya Pino says:

      My guess is the banana bread you make AT HOME isn’t sold at the supermarket. That’s exactly the point of this chart–that people should be buying ingredients and cooking at home instead of buying processed, preserved junk food. And sorry, but calcium does not prevent osteoporosis, vitamin D does. But adding vitamins and minerals to processed foods has never been shown to make people healthier. That’s the second point of this chart–not to be fooled by food manufacturers who claim their foods are healthy because they’ve added supplements. And while I agree with you that it is better to read ingredients than to count them, it’s also nice to have a sense of humor. This chart is meant to be fun, lighten up.

  39. DC says:

    Nice chart!
    Now if we can just get more real food into the stores!

  40. Heather says:

    Love this – thanks for posting. Sharing on my blog with a credit and a link to you!

  41. John says:

    Awesome! You should enter this into the flowchart contest at They are giving away laptops to the 100 most creative and this is good.

  42. Lisa Airey says:

    Great flowchart! I once met at nutritionist at a wine tasting who said that if we all shopped the perimeters of the supermarket (produce, dairy, meat/seafood and then on to checkout!) we’d live longer.

    At another event, a mortician told me that our “slab time” the length of time it takes before our bodies to start to decompose, has increased because of all the preservatives we eat. Yikes!

    Long story short…I’m now an organic gardener. Again, great chart! Food for thought!

  43. Stefanie says:

    Hi, hoping it’s okay to use this chart on our blog with a link back to your site.

  44. Kelley Moore says:

    Darya, I love this. It goes right along with a conversation and some shopping tips we gave our free fit club about two weeks ago. Could I print this flow chart and share it with our fit club? It’s a free club that meets twice a month. We’re trainers, but we are doing this more as a pay-it-forward type project. Thanks for considering. And thanks for the great, simple to follow info. k

  45. Dr. Max says:

    AMAZING post! Hilarious and true. I love the lightbulb reference. Can I get a copy to put up in my clinic?

  46. Andrea Me\ says:

    I love this!!! I have linked it to my Wednesday Meanderings post for others to check it out.

  47. Valerie Hess says:

    Can I really share this? I am working on a book and want to put it in it. Is that really OK?

  48. Dr. Jake says:

    That’s awesome…Might as well make it fun to choose the right food!! Or the wrong one.

  49. Steve says:

    Darya, I am not going to say you “saved my life”, but you certainly have improved its quality! I always thought it was “too hard” to change my diet (yes the real meaning, not the daily fad), and it really wouldn’t make a difference anyways even though my parents kept harping at me to give it a whirl. Your succinct, witty explanations based on common sense, incredible research(you do it 24hrs a day?, hard work, and intelligence make it so easy and fun I can’t thank you enough. My gout has not flared up, I have lost some weight, I have more energy, I am sleeping better, the list goes on and on. Thank you, you’re an angel!

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