Many of us can name a host of ‘healthy’ foods, (I'm hoping) most people would say, vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts, wholegrains. Ok maybe I am reaching for the stars a little on the last one, but you catch my drift. Being educated about healthy eating is one thing but putting it into practice is another. It's the hard bit. The knowledge that fruit is a healthier snack than the 2 glistening golden chocolate bars that are staring up at us at the petrol station is often not enough to stop us taking full advantage of the fuel discount with this sugar laden purchase.
I find studies that look at consumer buying patterns fascinating, because they often suggest real, everyday things we can do to help combat the lures of fancy packaging, two for one deals and the constant onslaught of highly refined snack foods that seem to be everywhere these days! A group of researchers found that participants who ate a small piece of apple (the 'healthy' snack) bought 28% more fruit and veg than those given an 'unhealthy' chocolate snack and 25% more than those who didn't get a post shopping snack at all.
If the difference between you buying a block of chocolate that is going to tempt you to eat it every night and not buying it, is a small piece of apple - gosh Id be tempted to set up an apple stand outside of every Coles and Woolworths!
There are often many good intentions thrown about, but when it comes down to it, the decisions that are getting made in that one hour at the supermarket are the important ones. Creating a positive food environment is a challenge that those who have a positive relationship with food seem to have mastered. I've heard some great suggestions from clients, for instance one always buys her petrol in the morning, so she isn't faced with the temptation of the sweets in the afternoon.
Unfortunately we don't always have control of the food environment that surrounds us. There are signs, cues, signals, smells that bombard us from the moment we wake up! We are most certainly overfed, excuse the pun, with food. Short of placing all the unnecessary processed food right up the back of the supermarket in a special 'sometimes' section, we need to get more savvy about how we can survive our obesenogenic society.
Cue food psychology. It's time to understand the way our consumer minds work and learn some simple strategies to help ourselves make better decisions during that one-hour we are at the supermarket. It's no secret that we are more likely to choose products if they are placed at eye level or tempted to grab an extra packet of mints if they are at the checkout. The supermarkets have done their research to make us spend more money, it's about time we put into practice our own lessons learnt to make better choices.
Here are my top tips for smarter supermarket shopping:
- Have a healthy snack or meal right before you embark on your shopping trip. Never enter hungry! As the study highlighted above showed, eating something healthy will encourage you to be in a healthy mindset.
- Go shopping in your gym clothes – similar idea to what I described above. Choose an outfit that makes you feel more fit so you don’t undo the great work you did in the gym earlier.
- Do your fruit and veg shopping first so that you fill the majority of your trolley with them first - a similar principal to filling your dinner plate. Less room for other non-essentials.
- Choose your company wisely, if you’re easily influenced to try the new flavour or Cadbury marvelous creations ice-cream by your significant other, then just do your shopping solo. Vice versa, if you’re the type who rewards themselves with a few extra treats than necessary, bribe a friend or relative to join you and help you stick to your list.
To read the abstract of the study discussed above check out: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mar.20801/abstract.