Study: New Year shoppers resolve to pile on caloriesMany people anticipate the holiday season to be a time for gluttony. Once the new year hits, they resolve to go back to their normal, or even healthier, eating habits, or so their best intentions say.
But a study by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab suggests something different happens. Instead of buying more fruits and vegetables in favor of those unhealthier food choices, people do purchase the healthy food items while continuing to take home the same caloric-dense foods they had been consuming during the holidays.
The result, researchers say, is a 9 percent jump in calorie purchases after the holiday season ends.
"People are a lot more willing to add health food to their diet than they are willing to give up the less healthy food," said David Just, a professor of behavioral economics at Cornell University's Dyson School and co-author of the study.
As part of the study, researchers tracked the grocery store spending behaviors of 207 households in the Utica-area during a seven-month period. Researchers established a baseline from July to Thanksgiving, and then, as expected, saw food purchases spike by 15 percent from Thanksgiving until the end of the year.
"People do that because it's tradition; it's what we do," Just said about the holiday period filled with feasts, sweets and other food-centric activities. Of that increase in food purchases, only about 25 percent was considered healthy based on a nutritional rating system used by the participating grocery stores.
Once the holiday season ended, researchers found that instead of food purchases ramping down as might be expected, the amount of calories put in the cart actually jumped considerably.
"When New Year strikes we have this resolution: we want to lose weight, we want to change," Just said. "It's really hard to get rid of those bad foods at that point."
Just said shoppers want to take a visible action toward fulfilling their intentions to eat healthier, so they add to their cart more fruits and vegetables that they know they should eat, while still loading up on the same food they had been purchasing during the holiday season.
One way to avoid the trap is to make a list and stick with it, Just said. If while shopping you want to add in extra fruits and vegetables, go for it, he said, but don't fall for the temptation of adding in the less healthy choices.
"When you're loading up on pies, or ice cream, or cookies, or sausage, or whatever else that might be, stick to your list," he said.
See the article on USA Today's website.