Grocery Shopping with a Mirror? Stay tuned.

Don't know how I feel about this (or you will, when hearing about it).  But nutritionists have found a super new way to get people to eat healthy(ier) in the supermarket.   Put mirrors in their shopping carts.

The point is to steer more people towards the produce aisle, and away from the processed foods, according to The New York Times' Michael Moss.  "The mirror is part of an effort to get Americans to change their eating habits, by two social scientists outmaneuvering the processed-food giants on their own turf, using their own tricks: the distracting little nudges and cues that confront a supermarket shopper at every turn," he writes.

Researchers are trying to find ways to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. But instead of preaching about diabetes or slapping taxes on junk food, they are doing things like adding mirrors to shopping carts so you can see yourself when you reach for the Ben and Jerry's, and "glossy placards that hang inside the baskets like the mirrors," telling customers, in English and Spanish, how much produce the average customer buys (five items a visit), and which fruits and vegetables were the biggest sellers (bananas, limes and avocados) — "information that, in scientific parlance, conveys social norms, or acceptable behavior. gently prod shoppers — so gently, in fact, that it’s hard to believe the results," Moss reports.

And it's working. Stores that do this are seeing their sales of fresh produce skyrocket, while purchases of processed foods are going down.

Reaching for his Ben and Jerry's, one of the researchers told Moss, "“Eating this, I don’t realize I’m overweight, until I look at myself."

Sales are way up at stores that use these methods, according to Moss.  But suppliers of processed foods will still be hard to beat.  Moss writes that they know to place the sweetest items at eye level, midway along aisles, where shoppers' attention tends to linger longest; place soda at the ends of aisles, where stores make 45% of their sales;  set impulse purchase items everywhere, (60% of which, like mine are unplanned), and set free-standing displays toward the rear of the store on the left (shoppers tend to buy items mostly from shelves to their left -- who knows why?).

But there's some good news.  When stores post health-related information -- online, and kiosks and shelf tags -- linking groceries to good health, people tend to buy these items (though only 23% of them say they always look for nutritional information on labels).

To sum up, I don't think I'm ready for the mirror yet.  But I've learned to shop the perimeter of stores, because that's where the freshest, most unprocessed foods are -- produce, dairy, meats.  The inside aisles attract me too much with their chips and Kraft macaroni and cheese and Ben & Jerry's.


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