Going shopping on an empty stomach is a bad idea, because driven by your current state of hunger you will probably buy more than you plan. Armed with that knowledge, researchers at Cornell University wanted to see if that behavior could be leveraged. They found those who ate a healthy snack before shopping bought more healthy items than those who ate a treat or shopped on an empty stomach.
Study participants who had an apple sample before shopping bought 25 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who did not eat that sample. Those findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Psychology & Marketing.
The study actually was composed of three separate components. In the first, 120 shoppers were randomly given at the start of their grocery session an apple sample, a cookie sample or were left to shop on an empty stomach. Researchers then tracked their purchases.
Those given an apple sample bought 28 percent more fruits and vegetables than those given a cookie sample. They also bought 25 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who had no sample.
"What this teaches us," researcher Aner Tal says, "is that having a small healthy snack before shopping can put us in a healthier mindset and steer us towards making better food choices."
The second and third studies included virtual shopping trips. Similar to the first study, a group of 56 participants were given an apple sample or cookie sample and were then asked to imagine they were grocery shopping. They were shown 20 sets of products, one healthy and one unhealthy in terms of calorie count.
Those who at the apple sample chose more healthy items, while those who had a cookie sample chose more unhealthy items.
Fifty-nine participants were divided into three groups for the third study. One was given chocolate milk labeled as “healthy, wholesome chocolate milk.” A second group was given the same milk but with the label calling it, “rich, indulgent chocolate milk. The third group was not given any milk at all.
While going through their virtual shopping experience, shoppers were shown a variety of healthy (low calorie) and unhealthy (high calorie) options. Those who had the milk labeled as healthy selected more healthy items in their virtual shopping experience.
The third study showed that it was not necessarily the actual healthiness of the product but the perception of healthiness.