100-calorie snack packs
Leave them on the shelf. According to a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the small portions lull us into thinking that a little bit of unhealthy food is an innocent pleasure, which encourages us to eat more bags. “Just because it’s packaged to look like diet food doesn’t mean it is,” says New York University nutritionist Lisa R. Young, PhD, author of The Portion Teller Plan. She says you’re better off dipping into a regular-sized bag – a reminder of what overindulgence looks like.
Consumers view their “available balance” as cash they’re free to spend, a 2008 Journal of Consumer Research study shows. Rein in your spending by using cash – that way, you can see your money physically disappear. Carnegie Mellon researchers found that spending money activates the pain centres in shoppers’ brains. “Taking less cash out of an ATM more often is better than taking out more cash less often,” says study co-author Scott Rick, PhD.
"Whole" food labels
Whole grains have more fibre, protein, vitamins and some minerals than processed white flour. However, food companies sometimes use the phrase “whole grain” more often than they actually use whole grains. Pay attention to the ingredient list, not the packaging. “You don’t want sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, or enriched wheat flour listed ahead of the whole grains,” Young says.
Salads drive up sales of fattier fast-food fare, says Duke University’s Gavan Fitzsimons, PhD, who has studied the trend. “Seeing a salad satisfies a person’s unconscious goal of being healthy,” he says. “People feel better with them on the menu and then go wild on the fries.” Salads aren’t always healthy: If you must go to a fast-food outlet, know what you’re ordering.
Reusable shopping bags
They’re good – but you have to use them. Many people don’t, a Stanford University survey found. If the bags are not reused, they’re actually worse for the environment because their sturdy material can last longer than disposable plastic bags. A main problem: The store logos emblazoned on reusable bags make people uncomfortable with taking them to other stores, according to the survey. Get a nondescript canvas carry-all and keep it in your car or near your keys.