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Healthy Eating

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Study: Avoid Grocery Shopping on Empty Stomach



Study: Avoid Grocery Shopping on Empty Stomach

In recent years, grocery shopping has become more and more of a source of stress and personal burden. This is partly because the modern grocery store is a minefield of unhealthy options that is nearly impossible to navigate without picking up at least a few unhealthy products.

Though some people pass it off as an old wives' tale, recent research shows that when we shop for groceries on an empty stomach, it does in fact have a negative influence on food choices.

The study that proves this theory.

A study proving this theory, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, was carried out in two phases. In the first phase, 68 men and women were brought into a lab on two separate days after having fasted for five hours. They were allowed to go grocery shopping in a simulated grocery store environment, which offered low-calorie options like fruits, vegetables and chicken breasts, as well as higher-calorie junk foods.

Before shopping, half of the subjects were given a snack. Both groups ultimately purchased a similar number of items, but those who shopped while hungry, without having a snack, picked the highest-calorie foods.

In the second phase of the study, the researchers followed 82 real shoppers in a grocery store. Once again, they found that people shopping at times when they were most likely to be hungry opted for the foods that were more calorically dense.

The researchers compared the purchases of second phase participants who went shopping between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (an "after lunch" period when people are less likely to be hungry) with their second phase peers who went shopping between 4 and 7 p.m. (when people are more likely to be hungry).

Those who shopped between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. bought fewer low-calorie products compared with those who shopped between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., buying, on average, eight low-calorie products versus 11, respectively.

What’s to blame?

Are we really hungry? Or has eating just become a habit?

Today, it’s hard to make smart food choices. When you think about it, junk food is everywhere. It’s in the checkout lines at grocery stores, at gas stations, at electronic stores like Best Buy and not to mention, there’s a fast food restaurant on practically every street corner in urban America.

We eat this type of food for pleasure, but there’s nothing pleasurable about the way we eat it. We eat food on the way to work, on the way home from work, while we’re working at our desk or while we’re watching a TV show. There’s nothing soothing about not taking the time to enjoy our food. So why do we let it happen?

We’ve fallen into this trap of letting ourselves go hungry, causing us to crave that next high calorie fix, and starting the cycle all over again.

When we go to the grocery store on an empty stomach, our bodies don’t know the difference between purposely depriving ourselves of food—as in dieting or just being overly hungry—or a famine. Our bodies are still programmed to go out and catch our next meal, but we don’t exactly wake up in the morning and steal eggs from a chicken. So when our bodies feel cut off from food, they go into survival mode and want that next high calorie fix so they can store up in case of another perceived famine.

Grocery Shopping is crucial

If you’re hungry while you’re grocery shopping, your body is going to see all of those high calorie options and go crazy. You’ll want to grab every junk food item you see and rationalize that choice by thinking, “So what? It’s convenient.”

It won’t be convenient in the long run when you crash and need another sugary fix in a few hours.

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