This Grocery Shopping Habit May Be Sabotaging Your New Year's Resolutions

A new study shows the checkout line snacks might not be doing you any favors.

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Photo by: Kondor83/Getty


If one of your resolutions for the New Year is “eat healthier,” here’s a tip that may help you keep it: Steer clear of supermarkets with snack-packed checkout lanes.

A recent study led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, in the U.K., found that people bought 16 to 17 percent fewer small packages of candies, chocolate and potato chips when they shopped at supermarkets that implemented unhealthy-snack-free checkout-lane policies. Those findings were based on the analysis of data from 30,000 households in the U.K. and spanned nine large U.K. supermarket chains and four years – from 2013 to 2017.

The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, also found that people bought and ate 76 percent fewer small packages of candies, chocolate and chips “on the go” – without ever bringing them home – when they shopped at stores with unhealthy treats and snacks in the checkout lanes than when they shopped at those that had banished unhealthy snacks from the checkout aisles. That finding was based on the data collected from 7,500 people who recorded the foods they bought and ate on the go over a two-year period from 2016 to 2017.

“Many snacks picked up at the checkout may be unplanned, impulse buys – and the options tend to be confectionary, chocolate or crisps,” study author Jean Adams, from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge, said in a news release.

The researchers aimed to determine whether the removal of snack items from checkout lanes would have an effect on the foods people purchased.


“Our findings suggest that by removing sweets and crisps from the checkout, supermarkets can have a positive influence on the types of purchases their shoppers make,” concluded Katrine Ejlerskov, the study’s lead author. “This would be a relatively simple intervention with the potential to encourage healthier eating.”

One fewer chocolate bar purchased, Ejlerskov suggested, may be one fewer chocolate bar consumed.

And, for some, one more resolution kept.

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