When you get a grocery store food sample, do you end up purchasing that item or something similar? If so, join the crowd – many people do. And now, says a new series of studies, if you think that food sample is healthy – whether it is or not – that can prime you to fill your grocery cart with healthier foods.
For supermarkets, the studies offer insights into helping their customers towards the healthier foods. But the study also offers some important take aways to help “prime” your home environment to shape healthier choices for your family, including more cancer fighting vegetables and fruits.
The authors conducted a series of studies to determine if food samples can set people up to make choices for either healthy or less healthy food items. In the first study 120 participants received an apple, cookie or no sample at the beginning of their shopping. The researchers then counted the number of fruits and vegetables samplers purchased at the end of shopping and found that apple samplers purchased more vegetables and fruits than cookie and no samplers.
Another study brought fifty-six participants to the lab where they received an apple or cookie sample and then were asked to pretend they were grocery shopping. They made choices from twenty paired options – one healthy and one less healthy. For example – apple or apple turnover. In this simulated shopping, apple samplers chose more healthy products, and cookie samplers chose more of the less healthy options. But in addition, the healthy/less healthy choices influence went beyond fruits and vegetables to other food products.
The last study looked at whether a sample’s healthiness is what primes future healthy choices. People who drank a beverage – chocolate milk – described as “healthy and wholesome” chose more healthy items than did those who had the sample described as “indulgent.”
While this is important to keep in mind next time you take a grocery store sample, here are three ways you can use this research to help you and your family boost healthy choices:
1. Breakfast priming: before going to bed, place a small bowl of berries on the kitchen counter or table. If you grab a few berries when entering the kitchen, that may help you make healthier food choices the rest of the day.
2. Lunch bags: pack a few bite size vegetable pieces like carrots, jicama or cherry tomatoes in a clear plastic bag and put it on top so it’s the first food item you or your child sees.
3. Road trip: pack a small cooler with yogurts, grapes, peanut butter, whole grain crackers and water. You may find your restaurant and convenience store choices get just a little healthier!
For more “priming” ideas: