It’s 5pm and you’re rushing home from work when you remember you need a few things for the evening meal. You pop into the grocery store and come out with bags of groceries and a $50 hole in your pocket. Sound familiar? What happened?
Your brain happened. You saw the food, smelled the smells of the bakery and deli isles (even if you didn’t go down them), and your brain said, “Yum, food!” Thinking it was about to get a meal, the cephalic phase of digestion kicked in. In response to the sights and smells, your mouth starts to water – to produce salivary juices – and your body releases enzymes, hormones, stomach acids and gastric juices in preparation of the food’s arrival. Result – if you weren’t hungry when you walked into the store, you’ll start to feel hungry.
You know what happens when you’re hungry. You seek out food. When you get to the check-out, your cart contains more than you intended to buy. You’ll often notice the appearance of treat foods you wouldn’t normally buy.
Can you control your brain and stop this response?
No, it is a physiological response. But you can be prepared and minimize the damage to your healthy diet. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask yourself if you can substitute the food for something else: Often we can swap foods in recipes. For example, tomatoes for tomato paste. Knowing this in advance saves you time at the store, leaving you more time with your family.
- Eat a healthy snack: Stash a bag of almonds in your car’s glove box and eat a handful before shopping.
- Be a conscious shopper: By being aware, you can stick to your mental list of required items. Awareness is so huge that it will save you money and help you to avoid visiting the middle isles…these are the ones filled with highly processed snacks like chips, soda, crackers, etc.
- Slow down: Not an easy thing to do when you’re running late and the family is waiting for dinner. When you do pick up that snack food, or food that isn’t on your list, instead of tossing it into the cart and plowing forward, do the following. Stop. Look at the packet and ask yourself “Why am I buying this?” If the answer is because it’s part of a meal – carry on. If the answer is because you just want it – think again. Do you really want/need it, or are you buying it because your body is screaming, “Feed me?”
If you do come out of the store with junk food, resist the temptation to berate yourself. Instead, when you get home, pack it away for after dinner. You’ll likely find that after you’ve eaten you’ll no longer be interested in the snack. If you are, be sure to portion it out and pack the rest away.
I hope these suggestions serve you well and help keep money in your pocket and your healthy eating on track.
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