Can't resist the chocolate aisle? Eating an apple BEFORE going to the supermarket primes shoppers to buy healthy food

  • People who ate a bit of apple bought 25% more fruit and vegetables
  • Those who ate a bit of cookie tended to buy more high calorie foods
  • Experts found perceiving a snack as healthy influences people's habits
  • Said supermarkets should give out fruit to encourage healthy purchases

Many of us find it difficult to avoid the chocolate and crisps aisles in the supermarket, not to mention the desserts fridge.

Now, researchers have discovered a simple way to help shoppers control the urges to buy unhealthy foods.

Eating an apple before going shopping causes a person to buy 25 per cent more fruit and vegetables, a study found.

US researchers discovered people can be primed to buy healthy food if they eat a wholesome snack before going to the supermarket.

Juicy: Eating an apple before going shopping causes a person to buy 25 per cent more fruit and vegetables

Juicy: Eating an apple before going shopping causes a person to buy 25 per cent more fruit and vegetables

They recommend eating a piece of fruit before hitting the aisles, and said supermarkets should offer samples to shoppers to encourage them to make healthy choices.

The team carried out three studies to find out if healthy snacks cause shoppers to make better food choices in the shop.

In the first study, 120 shoppers were randomly given either a bit of apple, a piece of cookie or nothing at all when they arrived at the supermarket.

The researchers tracked their purchases and found those who were given the apple bought 28 per cent more fruits and vegetables than those given the cookie.

And they bought 25 per cent more fruits and vegetables than those given no snack at all at the start of their shopping.

Dr Aner Tal, of Cornell University, who carried out the research with his colleague Dr Brian Wansink, said: 'What this teaches us is that having a small healthy snack before shopping can put us in a healthier mindset and steer us towards making better food choices.'

In the second and third study, participants shopped virtually.

Slender: People who eat a healthy snack before going to the supermarket  buy more low calorie items

Slender: People who eat a healthy snack before going to the supermarket buy more low calorie items

In the second experiment, 56 participants were once again given a piece of cookie or apple then asked to imagine they were shopping.

They were then shown 20 pairs of products and asked to select which one they would purchase.

Each pair contained one healthy (low-calorie) item and one unhealthy (high-calorie) item.

GORGING ON BURGERS, BISCUITS AND STEAKS FOR JUST TWO WEEKS 'DRASTICALLY INCREASES THE RISK OF BOWEL CANCER' 

Just two weeks of eating lots of fatty food could ‘dramatically’ increase the odds of bowel cancer, researchers believe.

Both men and women were at higher risk of the disease only a fortnight after swapping their African diet for Western meals, tests showed.

In the study, fibre-filled foods were replaced with burgers, biscuits and steaks, with potentially deadly results.

The British and US researchers say that while the idea that fibre is good for us is not new, they were surprised at how quickly it made a difference.

And they say we could all benefit from a bit more fibre in our diets. 

As in the previous study, those who ate the apple opted for healthier items.

And those who ate a cookie opted to buy more of the less healthy items.

In the third study, researchers wanted to see if just framing a snack as healthy or not influences the shoppers' subsequent behaviour.

They divided 59 participants into three groups.

One group was given chocolate milk labelled 'healthy, wholesome chocolate milk,' a second group was given the same milk but labelled, 'rich, indulgent chocolate milk,' and the final group did not receive any milk.

Once again, people were asked to select food in a virtual grocery store that contained a variety of healthy (low-calorie) and unhealthy (high-calorie) options.

The researchers found people given the milk labelled healthy and wholesome selected more healthy foods in the shop.

This suggests what influences shoppers' behaviour after eating a snack such as an apple or a cookie is not the actual healthiness of the snack, but whether or not they perceive it is healthy.

The researchers concluded that shoppers should have a small healthy snack like a piece of fruit before shopping.

Writing in a press release, they said: 'Not only will it help decrease hunger, it may also nudge them to select healthier items.

'For grocery stores they recommend leveraging these findings and encouraging people to buy more produce by offering samples of fruits and vegetables to shoppers upon entering the store.'

 

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