New Dietary Advice Offered to Online Customers Can Bring Positive Changes in Food Purchasing Habits
People are ordering food from home, whether it's a specialist/luxury product, or day-to-day groceries. As well as older methods such as mail order, phone and fax, people are now buying food using the Internet or digital TV. In recent years, shopping over the Internet has become increasingly popular, with online sales of food and drink reaching a value of £775m in 2002.
Buying food in this way can give people access to more suppliers, providing greater choice and opportunity to compare prices. It can be especially convenient for people who find it hard to get to the shops or carry heavy bags, and for people living in remote areas. When you are planning to order food from home, remember to check the information about the products and the business's service promises.
Online grocery shoppers who receive dietary advice make healthier food choices, researchers have found newly.
An Internet-based system that provides online food shoppers with purchase-specific dietary advice helps them buy foods that are lower in saturated fat than the foods they initially set out to buy, according to new study findings.
"Internet shopping provides a unique opportunity to modify diets of large numbers of people at low cost," study co-author Dr. Bruce Neal told Reuters Health.
Neal, at the University of Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues write in the online journal PLoS Clinical Trials: "Fully automated, purchase-specific dietary advice offered to customers during Internet shopping can bring about changes in food purchasing habits that are likely to have significant public health implications."
Many supermarkets have introduced online food purchasing over the past 10 years. The team thought that this new medium may present a unique opportunity to help consumers make better food choices.
To investigate, they recruited 497 online supermarket shoppers and randomly divided them into two groups.
One group, the study group, received fully automated purchase-specific dietary advice in real time. When attempting to purchase foods online, these shoppers were given recommendations for similar products that were lower in saturated fat. The second group, the comparison group, received nonspecific advice about consuming foods lower in saturated fat.
During the first shopping session in which study participants received advice, those in the study group purchased foods that were about 10 percent lower in saturated fats than the foods they had initially selected, Neal and his colleagues report. They also purchased foods that were 0.66 percent lower in saturated fat than the foods purchased by their counterparts in the comparison group.
Similar patterns were seen in subsequent shopping sessions, the authors note.
What's more, the foods purchased by the two groups did not differ in price, study findings indicate.
These results imply that "innovative internet shopping companies could offer significant new services to their customers... (that) could both improve their customers' health and differentiate their service in an increasingly competitive marketplace," Neal told Reuters Health.
"This service need not be restricted to saturated fat," he added. "High blood pressure, weight control and conditions such as heart disease might all be addressed by a service that checked your purchases for you."
Tips for a healthier shopping basket
- Choose soft margarines instead of butter
- When cooking, use vegetable oils (olive and canola oils)
- Avoid creamy sauces, instead choose vegetable-based sauces
- Buy meats labelled "lean" or "extra lean"
- Select chicken and turkey over high-fat processed meats (sausages and salami)
- Opt for skim/low-fat milk
- Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt
- Choose calcium-enriched soy products such as soy milk and soy yogurt
- Substitute low-fat cheese for full-fat cheese
- When buying snacks (e.g. potato crisps, cakes, chocolate) and processed foods (e.g. pastries, pies, pizza and hamburgers) look for the reduced fat alternatives available.
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