When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, Americans are fairly predictable. Staying fit and healthy, losing weight and spending less while saving more are the most popular resolutions, according to a poll from Nielsen.
So, to accomplish those goals in 2017, we make healthy meal plans and march to the grocery store with the best of intentions. Bonus points if you’re armed with coupons and follow some of these tips for a healthy shopping trip.
But here comes a plot twist that could be derailing you from your top New Year’s resolutions: When it comes to grocery shopping, our minds are playing a trick on us, researchers have found, and it could be causing us to choose less nutritious food at a higher price.
Researchers say our subconscious often associates healthy with expensive, causing shoppers to not just spend more, but also make some uninformed decisions in terms of what we perceive as healthy food, according to an article in the Washington Post. The forthcoming research will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Scientists have dubbed it the “healthy = expensive intuition.” You might be guilty of this if you’ve paid a premium for a protein bar billed as “The Healthiest Protein Bar Ever.”
The researchers from Ohio State University conducted the study because they wanted to challenge the widely perceived assumption that eating healthy has to be expensive. Marketers, they say, have been able to play off this lay belief and charge more for products billed as “healthy.”
In the study, for example, participants rated a breakfast cracker that they were told was more expensive and healthier than an identical cracker that they were informed cost less.
In another part of the study, participants were given information on what they were told was a new product called “granola bites” and they were asked to rate how expensive the product would be. Participants who were told the health grade was A- thought the granola bites would be more expensive than those who were told the grade was C.
The lesson here? You may want to give the nutrition label—and the price tag—a good look on that box of oat cereal that boasts its many health benefits. The 25 percent markup may not mean it’s any better than its neighbor on the shelf that’s packaged in a more humble box.