Food shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Why are you suddenly so drawn to the crisps aisle? And how did all the ingredients for a hearty lasagne suddenly appear in your trolley? If you want to avoid that kid of calorific mystery, just tuck into a healthy apple before you head out, say experts.

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Image: Cover Media

A US study has now found that eating the fruit before a shopping trip causes people to buy 25 per cent more fruit and vegetables. Don’t worry if you don’t like apples, any other piece of fruit or veg also counts.

To prove their theory, researchers carried out three studies to see if healthy snacks impacted shoppers. The first study involved 120 participants, who were randomly given either a piece of apple or a bit of cookie. Some also received no food before hitting the aisles.

Those who were given the apple ended up buying 28 per cent more fruit and veg than those who ate the cookie. They also bought 25 per cent more of the healthy choices than those who consumed nothing.

The second experiment focused on 56 people, who were again given a piece of apple or cookie. They were then asked to visualise themselves shopping. Each person was shown 20 pairs of products, with one healthy and one calorific option, then asked to name the one they would go for. Again, those who ate the apple went for a higher number of healthy choices.

Finally, 59 participants were divided into three groups, this time with the aim to test if just calling a snack healthy would make a difference. One group received chocolate milk labelled ‘healthy and wholesome’, the second received the same milk, this time described as ‘rich and indulgent’. The last group had no milk.

They then selected food in a virtual grocery store, with those who had consumed ‘healthy’ milk again heading for the low-calorie options.

Dr Aner Tal, of Cornell University, and 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.

So the next time your stomach is growling and you head to the shops, take an apple for the road. — COVER MEDIA