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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 16;9(12):e110561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110561. eCollection 2014.

New Year's res-illusions: food shopping in the new year competes with healthy intentions.

Author information

1
Food and Brand Lab, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

How do the holidays--and the possible New Year's resolutions that follow--influence a household's purchase patterns of healthier foods versus less healthy foods? This has important implications for both holiday food shopping and post-holiday shopping.

METHODS:

207 households were recruited to participate in a randomized-controlled trial conducted at two regional-grocery chain locations in upstate New York. Item-level transaction records were tracked over a seven-month period (July 2010 to March 2011). The cooperating grocer's proprietary nutrient-rating system was used to designate "healthy," and "less healthy" items. Calorie data were extracted from online nutritional databases. Expenditures and calories purchased for the holiday period (Thanksgiving-New Year's), and the post-holiday period (New Year's-March), were compared to baseline (July-Thanksgiving) amounts.

RESULTS:

During the holiday season, household food expenditures increased 15% compared to baseline ($105.74 to $121.83; p<0.001), with 75% of additional expenditures accounted for by less-healthy items. Consistent with what one would expect from New Year's resolutions, sales of healthy foods increased 29.4% ($13.24/week) after the holiday season compared to baseline, and 18.9% ($9.26/week) compared to the holiday period. Unfortunately, sales of less-healthy foods remained at holiday levels ($72.85/week holiday period vs. $72.52/week post-holiday). Calories purchased each week increased 9.3% (450 calories per serving/week) after the New Year compared to the holiday period, and increased 20.2% (890 calories per serving/week) compared to baseline.

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite resolutions to eat more healthfully after New Year's, consumers may adjust to a new "status quo" of increased less-healthy food purchasing during the holidays, and dubiously fulfill their New Year's resolutions by spending more on healthy foods. Encouraging consumers to substitute healthy items for less-healthy items may be one way for practitioners and public health officials to help consumers fulfill New Year's resolutions, and reverse holiday weight gain.

PMID:
25514158
PMCID:
PMC4267882
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0110561
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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