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Skipping Meals and Shopping Sabotages Diets

Tal, A., & Wansink, B. (2013). Fasting fattening? Hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food. Archives of Internal Medicine, 173(12): 1146-1148.

foodandbrandlab@cornell.edu


Hungry shoppers buy more higher calorie foods

Skipping meals can sabotage your shopping – and your diet, according to a new Cornell study. Even short term food deprivation not only increases overall grocery shopping, but leads shoppers to buy 44,8% more high calorie foods, according to the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“People skip meals for all sorts of reasons – dieting, fasting, insane schedules that make you forget to eat,” says Aner Tal, PhD, from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, lead author of the study. “But it doesn’t matter why you skipped a meal, it can still make your nutritionist cry - making you buy more potato chips and ice-cream and less baby carrots and skim milk.” Even a short period of deprivation can have far-ranging effects on your diet.

In one study, 68 meal skippers (who were asked to fast for five hours before the study) were either given food (wheat thins) to reduce their fasting-induced hunger or not given any food to keep them hungry following the fast, and then asked to make purchases at a simulated grocery store. The hungry shoppers that did not eat the wheat thins bought 18.6% more food – including 44.8% more high calorie foods. At a follow-up study researchers observed late afternoon shoppers at an actual grocery store during the hours between lunch and dinner –the hungriest hours—and the hours just after lunch, when people tend to be satiated. Late-afternoon shoppers purchased 26.7% fewer low-calorie foods proportionate to their overall purchases, than those shopping after lunch.

The problem with these effects are that skipping a meal can cast a curse on your whole week, filling your pantry, fridge - and subsequently, belly - with more fattening foods. The best advice to avoid this from happening? “Make sure you don’t skip a meal, or at least have a snack like apples or string cheese in your office,” says Brian Wansink PhD, co-author of the paper. “Breakfast is the most skipped meal, and even having something for lunch that has protein will cut your hunger edge.” Having a snack before shopping to curb your hunger may be all that’s needed to curb the effects of hunger on your shopping basket.

Article Summary by Joanna Ladzinski
Paper Abstract: (coming soon)


Brian Wansink, PhD
Food and Brand Lab, Director
110 Warren Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Email: foodandbrandlab@cornell.edu