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7 Terrible Ways Your Grocery Shelves Are Getting Way Less Healthy

Be aware of these things as you browse the aisles next time.

There's no doubt grocery shopping has changed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March. The unprecedented safety measures switched up how we all get food — either from a restaurant or the supermarket. Unfortunately, some of these changes equal unhealthy grocery and eating habits.

We buy what is available. And the shelves in the grocery store are stocked with processed foods and unhealthy ingredients right now. Here we gathered a few reasons why grocery aisles are like this.

People are more nostalgic.

wisconsin peanut butter jelly

It can be fun to snack on something you used to as a kid, and recently companies are making some past favorites available again.

A lot of people have been craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lately. Sales of Smucker's fruit spreads rose 72% since the beginning of the year. Another kid favorite that saw sales skyrocket after the pandemic began? Hot dogs! When stay-at-home orders were put into place in mid-March sales went up 123%.

The increase in demand for these nostalgic snack favorites is one reason shelves are stocked with more of them. Need more proof? The internet went crazy when it was announced that Dunkaroos are officially back.

Stores are selling out of many items.

Empty grocery store shelves

No matter where you get your groceries, chances are some of your go-to items have been out of stock at some point during the pandemic. Some of this is good — sales of organic food increased by 50% in March — but this also means customers have to buy other food items that may not be as healthy. Plus, with everyone making meals at home, many iconic ingredients like flour, canned foods, and cheese are going to be purchased more than usual.

Costco is seeing major supply issues with some foods, like meat and frozen meals.

Companies have had employees get the virus.

tyson chicken

Some factories have been forced to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks amongst employees. This affects supply chain — with production slowed or shut down, food gets to grocery stores later than anticipated.

Some major food companies have seen this happen to them. Kraft Heinz Co., Pepperidge Farm, Campbell's Soup Co., and more saw weeks of facility closures because of the virus. And This Chicken Brand Just Had Another Coronavirus Outbreak.

Companies cutting healthy products.

odwalla shake
Courtesy of Odwalla

Another reason your trip to the grocery store will be unhealthier right now? Companies are using this time to discontinue some food products to streamline production, says the Wall Street Journal. Instead of normal production, they have to focus on creating products that customers want the most while maintaining proper safety measures like social distancing. So some healthy options, like Amy's Kitchen Roasted Vegetable Pizza, suddenly disappeared.

Coca-Cola is doing this, too. You'll no longer be able to get premade smoothies at the grocery store anymore. They recently announced they are cutting the entire Odwalla brand.

People are bulk buying.

Costco avocados bulk

There are a few reasons why purchasing more items than you need is bad for your health. First is simply how much time it takes to bulk buy. In order to load the cart with a bunch of items that will also need to be scanned and put into bags, you need to spend a lot of time inside the grocery store. This increases the risk of exposure.

Buying in bulk also messes with the supply. If a product is in such a demand that you can't find it, you have to buy something else, and that can lead to settling for a less healthy option.

Good news: Expect to See These Hard-to-Find Grocery Items Back on Shelves.

Fresh food prices are high.

produce aisle

A lot of fresh produce as well as meat, seafood, and dairy products, have fluctuated in price because of the pandemic. They are typically sold at an amount that reflects demand, and when customers began stocking up, demand skyrocketed. A carton of a dozen eggs, which is usually around $1, suddenly was $3. With prices like this, it can be easy to skip the fresh food and go with something processed and unhealthy instead.

It's easy to stress eat.

Work space with laptop, candies and woman hands

Simply put, the coronavirus pandemic is stressful. Safety measures and rules that break us from everyday routines can cause panic. And when we're stressed, it's easy to snack.

Plus, being home so much gives us unlimited access to the kitchen where it's like "one huge vending machine," says the New York Times. And if you bought a ton of unhealthy grocery items and overstocked the pantry, there are so many options that can increase the number of calories that you consume. Here is another Sneaky Way Grocery Stores Are Getting You to Buy More Unhealthy Food.

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Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda