The Weird Problem With Ordering Food Online


Getting food delivered sure is convenient—but it’s also a surefire way to gain weight.

According to a study in the journal Management Science, if you place an order on the phone or online and have it delivered, you’re likely to buy about 100 calories more food than if you order it in person. 

It’s the anonymity of not having to face a (potentially judgmental) server that frees customers up to pile on the extra food, researchers concluded. 

“Alone in your home, you don’t face the same judgment about food choices you would when you’re out,” says study head Ryan McDevitt, Ph.D. But if you must call it in, he says, “avoid overindulging by placing the order around family members.”

There are simple tactics and tricks you can use for online grocery shopping, too—you know, so you don’t end up with a pantry full of Devil Dogs. “Having your groceries delivered can actually save you money, time, and a calorie load if you approach it smartly,” says JJ Virgin, certified nutrition specialist and author of the Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook. Check out her tips for keeping shopping convenient and healthy.

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Make a List

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again—lists are your best bet when you shop for food. Unlike a farmers’ market, grocery stores are loaded with sugar bombs and high-caloric snacks. This goes for online shopping as well.

“A lot of folks add random stuff in their cart habitually, because they’re hungry, or do so as an impulsive purchase,” Virgin says. It may seem silly for you to write out a list before you sit down to shop on your phone or online but it’ll keep your purchases on track. “Ruthlessly edit, and once you’ve finalized it, stick to the list,” Virgin adds.

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Ignore Sales (on Junk Food)

“You can become swayed by online bargain offers for less-than-stellar food choices,” Virgin says. (Who can resist buy-one-get-one family-size potato chips?)

You plan of attack: Ignore and focus your attention on fresh meats, produce, and grains only. Of course you’ll want some sweet treats once in a while and healthy snacking can help stave hunger pangs throughout the day—just be mindful about your choices.

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Judge Yourself

You don’t want to beat yourself up, but you do want to keep yourself accountable for your food choices. “I know a lot of folks who might feel guilty buying several boxes of cookies at the grocery store (those judge-y cashier stares!), so online ordering might become an easier, more discreet way to get your high-sugar impact loot,” Virgin says. Ask yourself if you really need the item and if you’re likely to regret the purchase once you eat it. 

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Plan Your Meals and Recipes

“I’ve found planning meals ahead of time can help with making wise decisions when grocery shopping,” Virgin says. You’re more apt to stick to your necessary healthy foods, or if you’d rather make your grocery shopping more routine, keep a rotation of healthy fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables on your roster, then plan practical meals from there. 

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Load Up On Essentials

“Grocery delivery can become a convenient, simple way to load up on staples like frozen veggies, nuts and seeds, legumes, and non-perishables,” Virgin says. If these are always on-hand, you won’t be so quick to buy impulsively. 

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Do Your Research and Be Picky

Virgin’s go-to online shopping sites are Wild Things Seafood and Vital Choice. “These are my favorite two places to order seafood and sustainably raised meat; they both provide fabulous meats plus a lot of other stuff like frozen blueberries and dark chocolate that’s delicious and healthy.”

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