The more we learn about nutrition and food suppliers, the more it seems like America’s obesity epidemic is the result of a coordinated plan to emphasize unhealthy items. It’s abundantly clear that unhealthy items are advertised much more frequently, and the coffee shop you visit every morning likely displays one healthy item for every eight unhealthy ones.
But this coordinated plan might stretch well beyond the realm of commercials and visible selections. There are other strategies that are more intelligent and therefore more difficult for the average citizen to detect. The real brainwashing targets your subconscious, prompting you to unknowingly buy unhealthy items. This explains why people often leave the supermarket with plenty of unhealthy items in their cart despite having no intention to do so when they first walked in.
Here are four traps set at your local grocery store that make customers more likely to buy unhealthy items:
1. Putting The Produce Front And Center
At many grocery stores, the first section you see when you walk through the door is produce. What could be wrong with reminding customers to prioritize fruits and vegetables? The produce section is in this location for a reason, but it might not be to get you to spend most of your money on healthy items. Having these items in your cart makes you feel healthy. Someone who enters the store feeling unhealthy, on the other hand, is probably less likely to buy more unhealthy items.
See where this is going? The produce section is placed up front to make you feel so good about yourself that unhealthy items begin to appear less hazardous. You’ve already got your fruits and vegetables - your subconscious is thinking - which gives you a pass to buy unhealthy items.
2. Eye Level Placement
You’ve probably never paid attention to where certain items are placed on a shelf (eye-level, knee-level, etc). Eye-level placement is apparently reserved for the highest bidders, a.k.a the bigger companies. The makers of particularly sugary items pay a lot of money to have their products placed at the eye level of children. They know that once a child has his or her eye on a product, it’s going to be very hard for that child’s parent to say no. This strategy is especially evident in the cereal aisle as well as by the cashier, where adults will find candy bars sitting near their waist-level, a.k.a children’s eye-level.
3. Emphasizing Ingredients That Were Never There
While browsing different kinds of potato chips, you might come across one bag that says “No Cholesterol!,” or “Gluten Free!”. This sounds like a healthy item until you realize that cholesterol is only found in foods that come from animals. And most potato chips also contain just potatoes, salt and vegetable oil, i.e. nothing with gluten.
This is an example of companies taking advantage of the knowledge gap they have over their customers. The average customer might not know that chips are not supposed to have cholesterol or gluten to begin with and therefore believe that this item is healthier than another one that has cholesterol or gluten. This strategy stems from the fact that a shopper typically assumes it’s a good thing when an item is shown to not contain something, regardless of whether or not that something should have been there at all.
4. Applying Their Own Definition Of “Organic”
There’s a widespread misconception that an item labeled as “organic” is automatically healthy. Organic simply refers to a method of farming, not a lack of certain unhealthy ingredients. In other words, there’s a strong chance that an unhealthy item labeled as “organic” is just as bad for you as the same item without the label. Companies know this, but they also know that the average customer won’t feel so guilty about buying an unhealthy item if it said to be organic, even if this customer has no idea what organic actually means.
How To Become Less Vulnerable To Their Tricks
In addition to keeping this list in mind, there’s one more thing you can do to avoid unhealthy items. Never, under any circumstance, go to the supermarket on an empty stomach. Your hunger-induced perception makes you much more susceptible to the aforementioned tactics and more likely to buy things you don’t need. Entering the store with the goal of buying only what you need will yield the complete opposite result.