Why You Should Snack Before Food Shopping

by Sarah Burns
Originally Published: 

You know the deal: You get busy. Some days, it’s enough of a battle to feed your kids, let alone sneak in a few bites for yourself. You don’t always have a lot of energy left over to focus on making healthy choices.

Last month, I went grocery shopping on an empty stomach. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Like most moms, I had been so busy bargaining with (I mean, feeding!) my toddlers that I had truly forgotten to feed myself. Shocking, considering I’m a woman who likes to eat.

Unfortunately, my stomach and brain reminded me of my mistake as soon as I walked in the store. By the time I left, I had bought everything on my list and then some—several “junk” foods had crept into my cart. Chips, cookies, sugary cereals … it was a calorie convention of dietary no-nos. I convinced myself they’d be occasional treats for the kids. (Um, yeah, right.)

Oh, and did I mention that I also stopped for every food sample in the store that day (consuming way more calories than I likely needed)? At the time, I considered it a good Samaritan duty. I mean, you don’t want to make those folks feel bad by rejecting their food!

Regularly eating a healthy and organized family dinner might be a pipe dream with 2-year-old twins, but I should at least have more control over the food I buy at the store. A brand new study says my shopapalooza could have been entirely avoided by simply eating a healthy snack before heading out that day. Not just that, but selecting a piece of produce to munch on, like an apple or ripe banana, could have spurred me to actually purchase more fruits and veggies for my family on that trip.

In the study, led by Cornell University researchers Aner Tal and Brian Wansink, 120 participants were split into three groups. One section was offered an apple, the second a cookie and the last nothing to eat before a food shopping trip. The scientists found that the apple group purchased healthier items, buying 25 percent more produce on their grocery run than folks who did not down fruit.

Having a small healthy snack, like a piece of fruit, before shopping can put us in a healthier frame of mind and steer us towards making better food choices, explains Tal. Not only will it help decrease hunger, it may also nudge you to select more nutritious items, since healthier food is at the forefront of your mind.

The experts say supermarkets should leverage these findings by offering samples of fruits and vegetables to shoppers upon entering their stores.

Finally, a sampling session to feel good about!

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