May 07, 2015 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

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.

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