A healthy snack before shopping can help people make more nutritious choices
Want to fill your shopping cart with more fruits and vegetables? Eat an apple when you walk into the grocery store. This simple activity, says a new study from the Cornell Food & Brand Lab, led to shoppers buying 25 percent more healthy foods than those who did not.
“What this teaches us,” said study author Aner Tal, Ph.D. of Cornell, “is that having a small healthy snack before shopping can put us in a healthier mindset and steer us toward making better food choices.”
In the study, published last week in the journal Psychology and Marketing, researchers conducted three experiments to make their case. The first provided 120 random shoppers with an apple, a cookie or nothing at all as they arrived at the grocery store. Those who had eaten the apple bought 28 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who had consumed a cookie and 25 percent more fruits and vegetables than those had no pre-shopping snack.
In the second experiment, 56 participants were given a cookie or an apple to eat and then shown 20 images containing two products each, one healthy and one unhealthy. They were asked to select which one product they would purchase. As with the first experiment, the apple eaters selected a larger number of healthy product images.
In the final experiment, 59 participants were divided into three groups, and researchers promoted foods as healthy when, in fact, the healthiness of the food was offset by high sugar or missing entirely. The first group was given a chocolate milk labeled “healthy, wholesome chocolate milk,” the second was given the same beverage labeled “rich, indulgent chocolate milk” and the third received no chocolate milk.
All participants then performed a virtual shopping task, choosing between healthy and unhealthy foods. Those who were given the “healthy, wholesome” chocolate milk made healthier selections during the virtual shopping exercise.
What influences shoppers, the study concluded, is perceivedhealthfulness of foods, rather than the actual healthfulness.
This led researchers to suggest that shoppers eat a small, healthy snack, such as an apple, before going to the grocery store to reduce hunger and point them in the right direction when it comes to making healthy food selections.