Two experiments put this to the test. After not eating for 5 hours, 68 men and women were allowed to shop for food on two separate days in a simulated grocery store (a Cornell lab). Lower-calorie healthy options and higher-calorie junk foods were available to put in their carts.
Half of the participants were given a snack before shopping. Both groups picked a similar number of items, but the people who hadn’t had the snack and were shopping when they were hungry (they hadn’t eaten in at least 5 hours) picked food with the highest calorie counts.
In the second experiment the researchers followed 82 actual shoppers in a grocery store. They found that the people who were shopping at the time of day (4 to 7 PM) when they were most likely to be hungry ended up picking the higher calorie foods.
Science And Common Sense Advice
A cardiologist who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study which was published in JAMA, believes the scientific findings support the common-sense advice of “never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.” She added her personal note “and never with young children.” Both factors can lead to less wise food choices.
This study suggests that how hungry you are impacts the food you choose when you shop. “Hungry shoppers buy more calories.”
Short-term fasting – whether it comes from intentionally skipping a meal, or unintentionally because of a busy schedule, can lead people to make unhealthier food choices.
How To Save Calories
To save calories when you head to the grocery store, grab a snack before you shop, plan in advance, consider ordering online, or let a good old-fashioned shopping list be your guide.
When you’re really hungry, odds are you’re going to go for the high calorie stuff – which often equates to junk – rather than kale and celery.