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One Major Effect Shopping for Groceries Online Has on Your Health

The surprising reason that online grocery shopping is better for your health than traditional shopping.
FACT CHECKED BY Joseph Neese

If you've been doing more of your grocery shopping online these days, it's likely been a wiser choice for your health than you realized. Online grocery shopping has provided an extra safety net for consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and a newly published study suggests that there's another benefit to your health that it might have delivered.

Make your grocery list, pick out the items you need, and add them to your cart. If you're getting everything done online, how you shop may not only keep you safe but also have a positive impact on your diet. That's right—a newly published study has revealed a surprising reason that online grocery shopping is better for your health than traditional shopping. (RELATED: This Is the Best Supermarket in America, New Survey Says)

We've broken down the key takeaways below, as well as an important budgeting tip to keep in mind for your wallet. If you're working on your grocery list right now, don't forget to check out the One Major Effect of Drinking Milk, New Study Says.

There are a few years of insight here.

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This study, which was recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, took place before the digital shopping boom hasted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It tracked the spending patterns of 137 consumers over 44 weeks between 2015 and 2016, or 2016 and 2017. Altogether, researchers analyzed data from 5,573 grocery store transactions.

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Curbside pickup or grocery delivery helped shoppers dodge temptation.

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The researchers found that shoppers who ordered their groceries online spent an average of about $2.50 less, specifically on unhealthy foods. The list included candy, frozen sweets like ice cream, and "grain-based desserts" like cakes, donuts, and pastries.

The reason for this was skirting the "impulse buy."

Woman shopping in supermarket snack aisle
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Laura Zatz, a senior adviser at The Behavioural Insights Team, discussed the study's findings with CNN. Shopping for groceries online helped the study's participants avoid food brands' tempting marketing tactics inside the store, as well as "enticing food stimuli, which encourages us to add items to our basket that we didn't plan to purchase," she said.

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Plus, another little influence.

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Most parents would agree that keeping kiddos out of the store helps curb in-the-moment requests, too. Stephanie Rogus, assistant professor of human nutrition and dietetic science at New Mexico State University, told CNN that unplanned purchases can take place if shoppers tote their little ones along.

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But there's one downside to online grocery shopping.

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The one downside? Even though digital shopping enables consumers to track their spending as you go, study participants spent 44% more when they ordered online.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more