Where You Buy Your Food Affects the Food You Buy

Does where you grocery shop or what kind of store you buy your food in make a difference in the types of food you buy? Do you buy less healthy options just because you’re in a supermarket?

Ever wonder if where you shop for groceries or the area that you live in and the availability of high quality food options effects what you actually buy?

Ever wonder if where you shop for groceries or the area that you live in and the availability of high quality food options effects what you actually buy?

This may sound like an odd question, but for those who travel for work it’s on the forefront of their minds. For those who don’t, maybe they should start spending more time thinking about it, because it might just make a difference.

For exercise it’s easy to figure out. How often do you work out compared to the availability of local gyms or workout equipment in your own home? For me personally, availability doesn’t seem to matter. If I’m going to exercise, I’ll just exercise one way or another.

But what about food? If getting healthier food were more convenient, would I eat healthier? Since this is harder for us to figure out ourselves, a recent study in the Nutrition Journal aimed to answer this question.

In the study, researchers looked at healthy adults living in Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area. The surveyed 121 people to find out if the availability of places to buy food, the type of store they shopped at, how often they went shopping, and how much health food was available at each location impacted the nutritional quality of the food they purchased.

Only one of the four areas they looked at had no impact on the type of food the participants purchased and that was venue availability.

It made no difference how many stores were in the area, people would shop where they wanted to and either made healthy or unhealthy choices as a result.

Out of the other three areas, there were some interesting results. The type of location the people chose to shop at made a difference. Health food stores or farmers markets led to greater purchase of fruits and vegetables.

Shopping more often at these places was correlated with the purchase of even more fruits and vegetables. However, the more often you shop at a supermarket, the more likely you are to purchase unhealthy foods on average, specifically a higher rate of purchasing sugary beverages. Inside the supermarket, those with greater availability of healthy options led to lower consumption of sugary beverages.

Now this might go without saying. If I choose to shop at a health food store or farmers market, it’s probably because I have a plan to eat healthier already.

However, for those of us who may opt for the convenient local supermarket, or, worse yet, a convenience store it might be a good idea to be aware of how this choice impacts our buying decisions.

I used to manage a vitamin store, and I can tell you unequivocally that I purchased more supplements purely because of my consistent exposure to them.

When working in a gym, I worked out a lot more. This study shows that exposing yourself to healthier food options makes it more likely you’ll choose those healthier options.

So if that health food store is just a little farther away, make an effort to go anyway. If you have to go to a supermarket, make the decision ahead of time to stick to the health food section.


1. Alison Gustafson, et. al., “Food venue choice, consumer food environment, but not food venue availability within daily travel patterns are associated with dietary intake among adults, Lexington Kentucky 2011,” Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:17

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