7 ways to avoid getting sucked in by hidden supermarket health traps

A trip to the supermarket can easily derail your healthy eating plans – here’s how to avoid temptation.

Navigating supermarket aisles and checkouts without being tempted by unhealthy food and drink is almost impossible, new research shows.

The Deakin University Global Obesity Centre study says a routine trip to the supermarket can play havoc with healthy eating.

It found supermarkets gave soft drinks, chips, chocolates and lollies more shelf space, discounted those products more frequently than healthier choices, and placed them in key selling points at checkouts and at the ends of aisles.

So how can you avoid, or ignore, the tricks that can lead to unhealthy checkout choices?

Serve yourself

Deakin University’s researchers found unhealthy food like chocolate and sugary drinks were available at 90 per cent of all staff-assisted checkouts.

So, use the self-serve checkout areas when you can.

Ignore junk food at checkouts

Food found around supermarket checkouts is 7.5 times more likely to be unhealthy than healthy.

So, when you get to the checkout, just pay and leave and don’t top up your trolley with snacks.

Ignore end-of-isle displays

Deakin University found 80 per cent of end-of-aisle displays contained at least one unhealthy item such as soft drinks, chips, chocolates or lollies.

Don’t go to the supermarket looking for meal ideas

“Many people wander the supermarket looking for tonight’s dinner inspiration, which will only lead to trouble!” says Melane McGrice, of the Dietitians Association of Australia.

“Set the same day aside each week for meal planning, jump online for recipe inspiration and make a list.”

Don’t get sucked in by specials

Consumer organisation Choice says the word “special” makes us think we have to buy something and it can have a scarcity effect – we think the special is only available briefly, so we’d better buy quickly.

But specials may be an unhealthy option.

If you only want bread and milk, buy bread and milk

Supermarkets position staples like bread and milk at the back of a store, so you have to pass the cakes, chips, lollies and chocolate.

If you only need a few basic items, don’t get sidetracked.

Keep kids busy

“Keeping kids engaged in the supermarket helps. I ask little ones to tell me the names and colours of different foods, especially fruits and vegies, and ask them to count out three apples or five kiwi fruit,” says Melanie.

“For older children, give them a list and ask them to find certain items, or give them tasks like calculating which carton of eggs is better value per gram.”

Written by Sarah Marinos.