How an Apple Buys You Better Groceries
You already know that grocery shopping on an empty stomach can be perilous. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to buy high-calorie, low-quality foods. Cupcakes look especially yummy when your tummy rumbles. A new study out of the Cornell Brand Lab has discovered that eating a healthy snack before you shop will not only tame your hunger but may put you in the mindset to buy healthier foods.
Researchers Aner Tal, Ph.D. and Brian Wansink, Ph.D. recruited 120 people and randomly gave them an apple sample, a cookie sample, or no sample before the start of their grocery shopping. At the finish, Tal and Wansink took an inventory of each person’s cart and found that the apple eaters had purchased 28 percent more fruits and veggies than those who had eaten the cookie and 25 percent more healthy foods than those who ate nothing.
They followed up with two studies in their laboratory where volunteers again were given a cookie or apple sample and then went on a virtual shopping experience, choosing from 20 pairs of foods, each pair containing one healthy and one unhealthy item. Those who enjoyed the cookie chose 35 percent more unhealthy foods than those who ate the apple sample.
In another laboratory study, participants were divided into three groups. One group was asked to drink chocolate milk labeled “healthy, wholesome chocolate milk.” The second group drank the exact same milk but labeled “rich, indulgent chocolate milk,” and the third group drank no milk. All the participants then shopped in a virtual grocery story. The group that drank the “wholesome” chocolate milk made the healthiest food choices, indicating that it’s not the food itself that influences your buying decisions but rather that if you eat a food you believe to be good for you before you shop, it may influence you to purchase healthier groceries.
“We don’t have scientific evidence to explain why this happens,” says Tal, “but we believe that eating a healthy food primes healthiness—it exposes you to the concept of healthiness, sensitizes your mind to it, and subconsciously steers to you make healthier food choices.”
Might eating a fruit or vegetable appetizer steer you to serve yourself more veggies at dinnertime? “We think it should,” says Tal, “but we haven’t tested this idea, yet.”
Make your next trip to the market—or maybe your next meal—nutritionally more fruitful by first snacking on an apple, carrot sticks, or other healthy food. Pass on the chocolate milk though.