Managing environmental cues or as I like to call it, practicing Environmental Control, in the grocery store may seem easy, but is actually quite challenging. A basic misconception is that food-related decisions are consciously and deliberately made. The reality is, food choices are often an automated response. Sometimes choices made may even be the opposite of what the person would consciously prefer. How, you ask? Let’s take a look at a prime example: food placement traps.
End of aisle location accounts for about 30% of all grocery sales. Vendors pay special fees for these spots and placement which can increase sales by a factor of five. Research using eye tracking equipment shows the attention drawn by special displays has more to do with the display itself rather than the goals of someone who selects them. Furthermore, people who lack the capacity to fully control eye-gaze and look the longest will be more likely to purchase those items.
So, how do we go about practicing environmental control in the grocery store?
- Have an awareness that marketing is focused on selling foods that are not necessarily good for you.
- Make a plan
- Make a grocery list
- Be aware of the ‘bad’ food placement traps
- Don’t shop hungry
- Do NOT under any circumstance ‘window shop’ junk food – don’t venture or gaze into the difficult areas.
- Purchase fruits and/or vegetables at every grocery store visit
- Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables if you have a plan for immediate use, otherwise look for canned or frozen variety.
- Don’t read labels in the stores – this can be too taxing and cognitively stressing. Study labels thoroughly at home, so when you need to compare in the store you know what you are looking at.
To help you get started on the right track, I encourage you this week to go grocery shopping and make a plan that includes a specific list for vegetables and fruits and a more specific plan to substitute a new fruit or vegetable for any usual white carbohydrate item you purchase. Happy Shopping!