BY: NADIA ZAIDI
We’re all guilty of grocery shopping while we’re hungry. And what usually happens? Well, let’s just say we end up spending more than we wanted, and eating more, too.
Somehow when you’re hungry, everything at the grocery store becomes appetizing and a potential meal. In light of this, researchers in the Netherlands have discovered a way to make better choices when you shop hungry. They found that people make less informed, unhealthy food choices when they are shopping on an empty stomach. People generally pick out quick fixes and foods that will give them instant gratification.
Researchers found that people who are hungry are generally impulsive, but they wanted to use this impulsivity to enable them to make healthier choices.
The study was published in the journal Appetite. What they did was they wanted to see if people were generally more inclined to make better food choices based on what the majority of other shoppers were purchasing.
The study consisted of two parts. For the first part, 200 participants were asked to fill out an online survey that had questions about how hungry they felt on a scale of 1 (being not at all), to 7 (very hungry).
After that, participants were presented with six pairs of foods – one was healthy, and the other was an unhealthy option. The catch: half the participants were given additional information about each of the food pairs. A bar graph showed that previous participants made healthier choices. This was to serve as an influencer on the group’s choices.
In the second experiment, researchers visited cafeterias and surveyed people who were about to eat and compared their choices to people who had just eaten. The 190 surveyed people were asked to choose between different pairs of food – unhealthy and healthy. Half of the participants were presented with results showing that previous partipants made healthy choices. The researchers found that hungry people made healthier food choices based on seeing a pie chart that previous participants made that choice. The choices were not explicit, or overtly stated.
So what’s the takeaway?
Hungry grocery shoppers need signs to quite literally point them in the right direction. Perhaps arrows in grocery stores that indicate fresh produce. An impulsive choice could lead to a healthy choice.
That’s great and all, but truthfully, if I want a bag of chips, I’m not looking for signs. I’m looking for chips.
I think we live in a time where health contentiousness is forced down our throats to the point where we feel like we’re choking on the information rather than digesting it. All we know is that we are constantly shamed for our eating habits, and sometimes we need to accept that healthy food choices means not depriving ourselves of eating ALL foods.
I’m not personally looking in other people’s grocery carts. I don’t know anyone with the patience to do that at a grocery store. All I know is that I have one aim in mind when I’m at the grocery store and that’s food. Everything else is secondary — even signage.