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Tricks to Make Healthier Food Choices

Woman Eating an Apple

You've heard to never go to the grocery store hungry. But did you know it's what you eat that truly matters?

A new study published in the journal Psychology & Marketing found that people who ate an apple before shopping bought more fruits and vegetables than those who didn't eat one.

According to Time, researchers gave 120 shoppers a snack—either apple slices or a piece of a cookie—before they went to the store. A third group ate nothing. The apple eaters bought 28 percent more fruits and veggies than the cookie chompers and 25% more than the hungry group.

The effect was the same when people simply imagined going grocery shopping. In a follow-up study, researchers gave 56 people either the apple or cookie snack, then showed them 20 pairs of both low- and high-calorie foods. Those who ate the apples chose more healthful foods.

Julie Metos, PhD, a registered dietitian at University of Utah Health, says having a healthy snack before shopping cues the brain to make nutritious choices. She also suggests having a plan and being aware of marketing ploys.

"If you shop hungry, you are primed to respond to grocery marketing techniques," Metos says. "People do their best with a list, a budget and a basic plan for the week."

Metos offers these tips for making choices when grocery shopping:

  • Avoid stopping at displays near the entrance and at the ends of the aisles. The displays are designed to catch your eye and rarely showcase healthful foods.
  • Plan meals ahead of time. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Tell yourself, "I can get that next time if I really want." Avoid restrictive language, such as "I can't have that," because it may lead to a stronger desire for the food.
  • Shop at stores that have fewer temptations or shop online.