Is Your Grocery Store Making You Fat? How to Shop Smart to Shed Pounds
Your Grocery Store Is Making You Fat and Broke. Here Are 6 Ways to Change That.
You don't venture down the junk food aisle, and you never hit up the grocery store when your stomach's growling. But chances are, you're still making unhealthy choices every time you shop for food.
Don't despair, clean eaters: It's not all your fault. A new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reveals that manufacturers and retailers employ a host of sneaky marketing and placement tactics to make us buy expensive junk food that we don't even want in the first place.
Wanna beat them at their own game? Here are six tips for shopping healthier—even when the grocery store is setting you up to fail.
1. Shop early.
"You need to go [grocery shopping] when your willpower is strongest," says Jessica Almy, senior nutrition policy counsel for CSPI and co-author of the report. That's almost never in the evening—especially if you've spent your workday denying yourself break-room brownies and doughnuts. Almy suggests going first thing in the morning, before a day of decision-making runs your willpower ragged.
2. Skip free samples.
Free samples always seem like an awesome deal, but this tactic is proven to make us buy more (The Atlanticreports that offering samples can increase sales of some products up to 2,000%). The CSPI even goes so far as to put "free" in quotation marks in its report—that's how well this marketing strategy works. Skip them altogether and you won't be as tempted to make the purchase.
MORE:The Truth About Product Standards Set by Food Stores
3. Don't assume products on the end of the aisles are on sale.
The ends of aisles are called "end caps," and they're a hot spot in grocery store real estate. Food companies spend gobs of money getting their products onto these highly visible shelves, because studies prove it results in big sales. The only problem? Customers tend to believe that foods placed on end caps are on sale, possibly prompting them to make an impulse buy. Don't be fooled: The food on the end of the aisle is rarely a good deal—for your wallet or your health.
4. Use a list.
Research shows we make half of all purchasing decisions spontaneously in the store, and that's a recipe for unhealthy impulse buys. If you come prepared with a list, you minimize those in-store decisions, Almy explains.
MORE:Will Online Food Companies Replace Actual Grocery Stores?
5. Steer clear of the seasonal aisle.
Talk about a sugar rush: The CSPI reports that the weight of all Halloween candy sold in a year is equivalent to the weight of six (yes, six) Titanics. And it's not just Halloween, either. Combined with Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter, key candy seasons span almost half the entire year and account for 60% of all annual candy sales. Roll your cart right on by and exclude yourself from the equation entirely.
6. Ask for a healthier checkout.
The CSPI's biggest beef is with the checkout aisle: You know, that enticing rack of candy staring you in the face while you wait in line for a half hour. Even though these items seem like small purchases, they're actually extremely lucrative for big food companies. The checkout aisle is a .5 billion business—and the only thing it peddles is junk food. What's more, impulse buys at checkout cause the average American woman to gain 4 pounds a year, according to one study.
What to do? Ask your store to axe candy-laden checkouts. "I think once retailers hear from enough customers, they're going to consider making changes," Almy says.
Video: These 8 "Healthy" Foods are Making You Fat!
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