Are you always sneaking in an extra chocolate bar or two when you go shopping? Can’t resist that tub of your favourite icecream? Do you do your best to avoid the bags of chips, but somehow there’s always two or three in the trolley when you go to the register?
You’re not alone. My clients often mention how every time they go shopping, they HAVE to buy the lollies and the chips and the cookies. Then they end up with a house full of unhealthy foods that they reach for whenever they feel stressed or emotional.
We know that the food that you buy affects your food choices at home. Most of us won’t leave the comfort of our home to pick up just one item of junk food from the supermarket. So by minimising what is in the house, you’re less likely to eat those types of food.
That’s why I’m sharing my favourite hack for shopping.
Should you avoid the junk food aisles?
Most people think that as a dietitian, I would recommend that people avoid the aisles with junk in them. Supermarkets even have confectionary-free registers these days.
But if you go shopping, you’re going to walk past tempting foods, even if you stick to the outside of the store. Supermarkets will always have tempting sales and quick buy items on the ends of every aisle. So you can’t completely avoid the temptation.
If you’re hungry or craving something, you will buy things you don’t need or even want. This is because your body takes over and says, ‘I need food!’ It wants you to eat whatever it takes to stop the feeling of not enough fuel.
And there’s a good chance that the food it directs you towards is full of sugar, refined carbohydrates and additives. You probably don’t go ‘oh I’m famished, I’m going to gather the ingredients for a chicken salad sandwich’ – that’s too much effort for the body’s impulse!
This is why avoiding junk food aisles when you shop seems pointless to me. In fact, I don’t advocate for restriction at all. Because I enjoy the occasional treat, I get my favourites every now and then. If you told me I could never have popcorn or caramel slice – I’d go out and eat all of them! There’s a good chance you’d do the same thing.
The trick – make sure you eat before going food shopping
It’s so simple. But it works. Make sure that when it’s time to go shopping, you’re already satisfied. Even if it’s eating an apple in the car on the way there, you’ll notice a difference.
When you’re not hungry, your brain can have more of a say in what you do. It makes it a choice what you eat, rather than a survival instinct to fix the hunger.
It works for taking the kids along as well. That’s why the free fruit for kids in the supermarket is a brilliant idea. You’ll get less of the whining of ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I want the lollies/chocolate/cookies’.
Buying less junk food is only one step when it comes to dealing with your emotional eating. But it’s a good shift to make while you work on what’s going on underneath your eating habits.