(HealthDay News)People who grocery shop when hungry tend to load up their carts with higher-calorie foods and more of them, a new study suggests.
Not only does that affect the meal they will be eating at home that night, but their meals throughout the week, according to researchers Brian Wansink and Aner Tal, with the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.
"It's known that hungry people buy more food in the grocery store, but what happens more is that people shift their shopping patterns to contain more high-calorie foods," Tal said. "When you are hungry, you think high-calorie food can provide you with more energy."
Dieting by skipping meals might not be a good idea, Tal added. If you shop while hungry you might wind up compensating for it with the high-calorie foods that will make up meals for the next several days, he said.
Another expert explained what might be driving the urge to shop for calorie-rich foods.
"Your body does not know the difference between purposely depriving yourself of food, as in fasting or dieting, or a lack of food or a famine," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at the NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City. "Your body does not know there are grocery stores and that you can have pizza delivered 24/7. The human body has not evolved as quickly as our agriculture or technology. It thinks we still have to go out and catch breakfast."
“Therefore,” she said, “when the body is deprived of food it goes into survival mode because it does not know when there will be another meal.”
Tal is now investigating whether having a snack before food shopping will tip the scale toward choosing lower-calorie foods.
The report was published as a research letter in the May 6 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at the NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City said this very small study indicates that skipping meals, fasting and restrictive dieting, even for short periods of time, is likely to backfire if weight loss is the goal.
It is important to eat at relatively regular intervals, she added. "This signals the body that fuel is readily available. Metabolism can run at optimal levels. Energy is available for biological functions and daily activities," Heller explained. "The immune system has the wherewithal to keep the body healthy. Mood improves," she said.
"Choosing healthy foods, eating regularly, monitoring portions and getting in daily exercise is the best way for your body and mind get happier and healthier," Heller advised.