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Surprising Science

Having a Grocery List Makes Food Shopping Healthier

When plentiful food is scarce, researchers suggest making a shopping list may help low-income families keep physically and financially healthy in areas that could be labeled as food deserts.

Food deserts have become prevalent in low-income areas. These are places where the corner store and an extra value meal at a fast-food chain are the only options to get a meal. Neither of which have fresh fruits and veggies, and if they do, then usually people reach for the bag of chips rather than a bag of almonds or kale — it’s cheaper.

Researchers from the RAND Corporation have been watching the obesity epidemic in these low-income areas with interest. The nonprofit organization recently found that eliminating fast-food chains failed to curb the rising rates of obesity in downtown L.A. What the city failed to consider was that obesity isn’t just the cause of big fast-food chains — the remaining convenience stores and small restaurants were still assisting in its prevalence in low-income areas. 

However, lead author Tamara Dubowitz of another recent study is happy to report there’s a connection between making a shopping list and curbing weight gain in areas that would be labeled as food deserts.

She reported in a recent press release:

“Individuals who reported always shopping with a list had slightly better dietary quality and slightly lower weight.”

The researchers collected data by going door-to-door in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, surveying 1,372 adults on their food shopping habits, BMI, and income. A majority of those surveyed (80 percent) had a yearly income of less than $20,000. Still, Dubowitz reported that those “who reported always using a list had significantly higher dietary quality, were more likely to be female and older, and less likely to be employed or to have low or very low food security.”

The researchers suggest that those who have little to spend and a long way to go to get the healthy food they need should take time to write up a shopping list. They don’t suggest that a shopping list will lead to a smaller waistline; rather a shopping list is a cost-effective, easy habit to implement that can help limit impulse purchases, provide a structured meal plan and eating habits, and keep track of financial resources.

Read more at EurekAlert!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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