By Community Submission
May 09, 2016

Personal Management: Shopping Hungry

BAF Logo® MarkOnly_cropInformation provided by the Bank of American Fork, a Council sponsor specializing in the Personal Management merit badge.

For the Personal Management merit badge, requirement 3d, Scouts must explain how hunger affects people when they shop for food items. This article will discuss some of the many studies showing that shopping hungry can cause you to purchase more, less-healthy food than you would otherwise purchase. After such a shopping trip, you may realize that you did not spend your money as wisely as you could have. Here are the possible consequences, why it happens and how to avoid it.

The best way to shop is with a full stomach and a list in hand.

Studies have shown, for years, that food shopping on an empty stomach causes shoppers to purchase more high-calorie foods.

homepagefoodOne study, from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, went like this: Participants were asked to abstain from food for five hours before arriving at the study. Half of the participants were given a small plate of crackers and half were not. Then the participants began an online game that simulated shopping in a grocery store. All of the participants bought about the same amount of low-calorie, or “healthy” foods, like dairy, bread or meat. But, the participants who did not receive a snack of crackers also bought six higher-calorie items, like junk food or “unhealthy” snacks, and participants who ate something only bought four.

An endocrinologist who looked at the study’s findings, Doctor Tony Goldstone, explained that the body is always trying to defend itself. When you have gone without food and your body wants food, it makes sense that you would go for high-calorie food instead of something like lettuce, which may not give you the energy you would need if it’s all you have.

In another Cornell University study, researchers watched 82 people doing their real grocery shopping. They watched people from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and assumed they had recently eaten lunch. They also watched people from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and assumed most of the people ate lunch earlier and had not yet eaten dinner. The ratio of low-calorie foods to high-calorie foods was healthier in the first group.

Scoutmaster David Oyster with David Miller at Pack/Troop cookout

How do you avoid making the mistake of buying high-calorie snacks and foods instead of sticking to a nutritious, balanced shopping cart? You can try having a snack before you go grocery shopping, chew on gum or take a water bottle.

Another good idea is to make your grocery shopping list as you run out of items you need and then review it (after eating, of course!) and add other items you need for the coming week. Then, shop from your list. Group your items into sections according to where you will find them in the store. That way, when you shop, you can stick to your list instead of browsing aisles with foods you don’t need, but might be tempted to buy.

But, wait! Even more recent studies suggest that you should be careful shopping for any kind of items when you’re hungry.

New research released earlier this year from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management suggests that your desire to acquire or have things increases when you feel hungry. The researchers studied people buying binder clips, clothes, shoes and electronics. In all cases, people who felt hungry purchased more and spent 64 percent more money than people who were not hungry when shopping.

The takeaway? Eat a healthy, filling snack and drink water before you go to the mall or shop online, regardless of what types of items you are shopping for. You may make better choices for your wallet or bank account.

ImageAuthor: Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth, Bank of American Fork. Bank of American Fork is a Utah National Parks Council sponsor specializing in the Personal Management merit badge.


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