Most supermarket coupons promote junk food, sugary drinks, study finds

January 29, 2014 by Brenda Goodman, Healthday Reporter
Most supermarket coupons promote junk food, sugary drinks: study
Low-income customers left with few healthy choices, expert says.

(HealthDay)—Clipping coupons to trim your food budget might be bad for your waistline and your health, a new study suggests.

The study found that offered by often chop the costs of calorie-laden foods such as crackers, chips, desserts and sugary drinks. Relatively few markets discount lean meats, low-fat dairy products or , the researchers said.

"We know from other studies that when you lower the price of foods, people buy more of them," said study author Dr. Hilary Seligman, assistant professor in residence at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. "When junk foods are the foods stores are lowering the prices of, we shouldn't be surprised that more of them are purchased."

The study, published this month in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, looked at more than 1,000 online coupons offered by six major chain grocery stores in April 2013.

Processed snack foods, such as chips, crackers and desserts, made up the largest slice of the coupon pie (25 percent). Meanwhile, 14 percent of coupons were for frozen dinners and other prepared meals; 12 percent were for beverages (half of which were for sugary juices and drinks); 11 percent were for cereals; 10 percent were for condiments, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise; and 8 percent plied customers with discounts on processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon.

In contrast, only 3 percent of coupons lowered the costs of fresh, frozen or canned , while 4 percent decreased the price of milk, eggs or yogurt. Only 1 percent trimmed the price of unprocessed meats.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, studies and public health at New York University, said she was surprised there were any coupons for healthy foods.

Nestle said consumers need to remember that stores use coupons to lure customers. She said they're mostly offered for processed foods because those are the most profitable items stores sell, and they make deals with the manufacturers to promote their products.

"Coupons are about marketing, not health," said Nestle, who wasn't involved in the new research.

That's a shame, Seligman said, because low-income consumers often rely on coupons to stretch tight food budgets, including aid from the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP).

A typical SNAP allocation budgets about $4.50 to feed one person for a day.

"The federal government intends for this to be supplemental, but most people don't have additional money to add to their SNAP budgets," Seligman said.

"The bottom line is that people are spending $4.50 on what they are eating," she said. "The only way to do that well or without feeling hungry often is to take advantage of the specials that grocery stores are offering. When all the specials are for candy, sweets and , it doesn't give the low-income consumer many choices."

Explore further: Fast food not the major cause of rising childhood obesity rates, study finds

More information: For more on access to healthy, affordable food, visit The Food Trust.

Related Stories

Fast food not the major cause of rising childhood obesity rates, study finds

January 15, 2014
For several years, many have been quick to attribute rising fast-food consumption as the major factor causing rapid increases in childhood obesity. Now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report ...

Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

October 16, 2013
Despite the prevalence of corner and convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, many residents have to travel farther to find supermarkets that offer a wide variety of healthful food choices, finds a new study in the American ...

First foods most: Buffet dish sequences may prompt healthier choices

November 6, 2013
When diners belly-up to a buffet, food order matters. When healthy foods are first, eaters are less likely to desire the higher calorie dishes later in the line, says a new Cornell University behavioral study in PLOS ONE, ...

Nutrient-based tax could cut nation's medical bills

January 17, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—To reduce obesity-related disease in America, many policymakers and public health officials have proposed either taxing products that make us fat or taxing individual nutrients in fattening foods, like ...

Enrollment in SNAP does not substantially improve food security or dietary quality

November 15, 2013
Millions of families in the United States struggle to provide nutritionally adequate meals due to insufficient money or other resources. To combat food security issues, over one in seven Americans currently rely upon the ...

Study: Taxing sugary beverages not a clear cut strategy to reduce obesity

July 30, 2013
Taxing sugary beverages may help reduce calories, but the health benefits may be offset as consumers substitute other unhealthy foods, according to a joint study by researchers at RTI International, Duke University, and the ...

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.