It seems hard to avoid the shelves of junk and snack foods near the checkout lines anywhere you shop. Gas stations, local hardware shops, clothing stores and others make one last push to make that extra sale of gum, candy, chips and sugary drinks by making them available in the checkout line.
Sadly, often these sales end up as added empty calories to your family’s diet. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most children between the ages of two and 18 years-old snack regularly. This accounts for an average 27 percent of a child’s total daily calorie intake. To top it off, these snacks are typically made up of desserts, salty foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages, which increase the risk of obesity.
Dr. Miles Masatsugu, Medical Director with CalOptima, the health insurance provider for thousands of adults and children throughout Orange County, has advice for making a healthier store exit:
Use Self-Checkout Lanes: Most retail and grocery outlets now offer self-checkout for added convenience. Fortunately, these aisles don’t often accommodate the same set-up as the junk-riddled lanes. Although self-checking may take a little more time, the distraction of scanning groceries and lack of sugary temptations can encourage an exit without the extras.
Look for a Healthy Lane: New pressures from health advocates have prompted some retailers to offer at least one lane with healthy options per store. Not only can you avoid your own impulsive purchase, if kids are in tow, it gives you a defensive strategy against a last-minute melt down through candy lane.
Eat Before You Shop: We all know better, but it happens to the best of us. According to 2015 research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, hunger increases our intention to acquire not only food, but also non-food objects. Having a meal or an emergency snack handy before you shop can protect your wallet as well as your appetite.
Commit To A List: Come prepared with a list in hand — and stick to it! According to the Integer Group, ninety percent of shoppers buy unplanned items, even when they have a list. Chances are, if you combine this strategy with using a self-checkout lane and a full stomach, you have a better chance of resisting the sales, promotions and other temptations.
Keep Little Ones Distracted: There are clever ways to distract your young sidekicks. Have them help with the shopping list or scanning items. If that doesn’t interest them, keep a healthy snack or a bag-of-tricks handy with coloring books or educational games on your smart phone. Singing their favorite song together before you reach the check-out can provide a calming distraction and go a long way.
Opt For Online: Consider online shopping to save time, money and to stick to your list. There are bargains, free shipping offers, online coupons and mobile apps to draw shoppers online. Although it may not meet your everyday needs, it’s worth a try to save time in a pinch. You can avoid shopping with cranky little ones who need a nap and complete your errands without leaving home.
Be flexible. The best laid plans can and do change at any minute. Be vigilant about keeping the family diet healthy and keep the battle plan in mind so you can resist an unhealthy impulse buy next time you’re in the checkout line.
CalOptima is a county organized health system, and provides publicly funded health care coverage for low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities in Orange County. In total, CalOptima serves more than 789,000 members with a network of more than 7,500 primary care doctors and specialists, as well as 30 hospitals.