We all know that shopping when hungry makes us more likely to make impulsive food purchases, especially junk food. It turns out that the opposite may also be true. A research study finds that eating a healthy meal or snack before going shopping increases your likelihood of making healthier purchase decisions.
Cornell University researchers Aner Tal and Brian Wansink found that shoppers can be swayed to buy more fruit and vegetables when they eat a healthy snack before shopping. In fact, the study showed that people who ate an apple before shopping bought 25% more fruits and vegetables than those who did not eat anything.
Three studies were conducted to see the link between healthy eating and healthy shopping. In the first study, 120 shoppers were randomly given a piece of apple, a cookie or nothing at the start of their shopping trip. Shoppers who ate the apple bought 28% more fruits and vegetables than those who ate the cookie and, as mentioned, 25% more fruits and vegetables than those who had no sample at all, leading Tal to deduce that “having a small healthy snack before shopping can put us in a healthier mindset and steer us towards making better food choices.”
In the next study, research participants were given a cookie or a piece of apple and then asked to shop virtually. They had to choose one item to purchase out of 20 pairs of products. Each pair contained one nutritious, low-calorie food and one unhealthy, high-calorie food. Here too, subjects who had eaten the apple tended to choose the more nutritious foods when shopping. The participants who ate the cookie tended to choose less-healthy alternatives.
In the third study, the researchers wanted to see whether just the thought of eating healthy had any effect on purchases. This time, participants were again separated into three groups. The first group drank chocolate milk labeled “healthy, wholesome chocolate milk”. The second group was given the same milk but it was labeled, “rich, indulgent chocolate milk”. The third group was not given any milk. Shoppers then repeatedly had to select one food item from a pair, in the same way as the second study. Those given the “healthy” milk made more nutritious choices than the other participants, meaning that just the idea of the eating healthy influenced the shoppers’ choices to pick healthy items, regardless of whether the sample was actually “healthy and wholesome”.
So the next time you go shopping for food, eat an apple or some other nutritious snack first. It will cut down your hunger and help you make healthier choices.
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