Researchers have proven that shopping while hungry influences what you buy, making it more likely that you’ll choose higher-calorie foods. Also:
The advice to avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach has been around for some time, but researchers have now proven that shopping while hungry does influence what you buy …
Why You Should Avoid Grocery Shopping When You’re Hungry
In a two-part study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,1 researchers first asked participants to shop for food in a simulated grocery store, choosing between healthful foods like vegetables and chicken breasts or junk foods. Half of the group had been given a snack first, and while both groups purchased a similar amount of food, those who hadn’t eaten first picked higher-calorie foods.
The second part of the study involved shoppers in an actual grocery store, and there, too, those shopping at times when they were most likely to be hungry purchased more calorically dense foods.
So it appears that shopping when you’re hungry may, in fact, make it more difficult for you to avoid all the junk-food choices lining the shelves. Cardiologist Dr. Rita Redberg wrote in an accompanying editorial:2
“I think all diet guides include the advice to “never go grocery shopping when you are hungry”—and when I had young children, I added “and never with young children”—because either of these factors seem to lead to less wise food choices.”
Supermarkets Want You to Fail
…On your diet, that is. Supermarket chains go to great lengths to get you to buy what they want you to buy, which is the products that make them the most money, not necessarily those foods that are good for your health. The truth is, you’ll need to prepare yourself mentally before you even enter the store, committing to buying only what’s on your list. Otherwise, you’re likely to succumb to the psychological traps inside, which are designed to influence your food choices.
If you’re hungry on top of it, you’re even less likely to succeed at your shopping trip, which is why it is a good idea to grab a handful of nuts or drink a glass of fresh veggie juice before you head to the store.
You’re probably aware of the brightly colored displays, product samples, and prominent aisle endcaps trying to entice you to buy, but the marketing tricks used inside many popular supermarkets do not end there. Nor are they all this simple.
When one Time Magazine author and marketing consultant got a glimpse inside a grocery store sales laboratory (yes, there is such a thing), he described a large “control room” reminiscent of NASA’s operations area, with rows of people intently observing shoppers on hundreds of screens, evaluating their behaviors and reactions to various displays and signage.
“Take a careful look at this lady,” said one of the monitors, pointing to a middle-aged woman on the screen. “She’s about to enter our latest speed-bump area. It’s designed to have her spend 45 seconds longer in this section, which can increase her average spend by as much as 73 percent. I call it the zone of seduction.
The sign in front of the display read: “1.95. Maximum three cans per customer.” Before the shopper slowly sauntered off, she had carefully selected three cans for her cart.
… The next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the signs, the type of floor, and even the carts. Everything has been designed with an eye towards getting you to grab those three cans of something that was not on your list. The more attention you pay to the details, the more aware you’ll become of how you’re being manipulated.”
Common Psychological Traps Intended to Change the Way You Shop
Through sophisticated trials such as those described below, marketers have determined that:
While this may sound simplistic, these tactics can be profoundly effective. In one instance, by simply changing the flooring in one section of a store, removing the dollar sign, and adding a three-cans-per-customer restriction, the sale of one particular canned food increased sevenfold! Some grocers even pipe in artificial scents to entice you to buy more …
It’s Not Only the Grocery Stores That are After Your Money …
Processed food manufacturers are also vying for their piece of the proverbial pie, and they’ve got marketing budgets that number in the billions to do it. Often, this starts in your own home, as 75 percent of US food manufacturers’ advertising budgets are allocated for television. There is one food commercial in every five minutes of television viewing, often involving popular TV and movie characters that kids recognize, or promising a free toy with the food purchase.
So, your kids see the junk-food ads on TV, then they go with you to the grocery store where these products are carefully displayed in prominent areas. Which items do your kids usually want? The bag of cookies or breakfast cereal with their favorite cartoon character on the front of the box? Or a fresh, ripe tomato or an organically grown carrot?
The food manufacturers have primed your child (and you) to emotionally respond to their processed food products, so you feel good about buying cookies, chips and sugary cereal, even though you know it’s not good for your family’s health. Because fresh organically grown vegetables have no marketing budget to speak of (compared to processed food manufacturers), you have to rely on your intelligence and your rational thought, not your emotions, to purchase these kinds of fresh foods.
Of course, the supermarket is in on the act, placing high-revenue processed products in areas that you’re most likely to walk by and see … they may even put a “speed bump” in to make sure you slow down when you pass by the junk food. This is why you’ve got to shop smart when you go into the store …
Arming Yourself With a List is Grocery-Shopping 101
If you’re not planning your meals (up to a week in advance, preferably), and if you’re not keeping an accurate shopping list that corresponds to your planned meals, then you need to seriously consider starting this valuable practice for several good reasons:
12 Tips for Making the Most of Your Grocery Trip
It may seem silly to “prepare” yourself for a trip to the supermarket, but doing so can make a difference in the food choices you make. And if the tips that follow help you to come home with several bags of fresh whole foods versus processed junk, it will make a world of difference for your family’s health.
Some of the top tips to abide by include:
Expand Your Food Shopping Beyond the Grocery Store
Conventional supermarkets are only one option for where to buy your food, and, often, they’re not the best choice in terms of finding fresh, healthful, sustainably and humanely grown food.
If you haven’t yet, try branching out to shop at farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs or food co-ops in your area. You’ll get access to the freshest foods available, without any of the temptation from processed-food manufacturers or grocery marketers trying to sabotage your whole-foods-based diet.
Have you got any top shopping tips to share?
This is a summary of a fascinating article by Dr Mercola. It can be found here.