For Healthier Groceries, Push a Cart Instead of Carrying a Basket

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When you go grocery shopping, chances are you’re either a cart-pusher or a basket-carrier. I tend to be a basket-carrier, but apparently, there’s a difference in what grocery-goers buy depending on their chosen method of shopping.

According to a recent study printed in the Journal of Marketing Research, shoppers who pushed a cart instead of carrying a basket tended to make better food choices. Researchers watched 136 people as they shopped for groceries and found that those who carried baskets were three times more likely to choose unhealthy foods. Why?

The researchers say the correlation has to do with something called “embodied cognition” – the notion that bodily sensations can influence one’s thoughts and emotions.  In the case of grocery shopping, the act of flexing your arm while carrying the basket somehow encourages you to choose smaller, easier rewards (something that the researchers call “vices”). Conversely, extending your arms as you push a cart has the opposite effect.

The study basically says that the simple task of holding a basket can trigger the desire for gratification, for a reward – for example, you might decide you want wine with dinner, whereas if you had been pushing the cart, you’d have grabbed a bottle of water. The desire for these instant gratifications can override long term goals, especially in terms of weight loss and overall health.

Well! This is certainly news to me – though now that I think about it, I do tend to pick up more “treats” with a basket, I always thought that a cart would make me want to buy more things – and thus, more “bad” things.

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