07/12/2013 05:57 pm ET Updated Sep 11, 2013

Don't Shop Hungry: 6 Healthy Snacks to Eat Before Food Shopping

As a nutritionist counseling clients on diet strategies to help lead healthier lives and lose weight, I've always advised not to go food shopping when hungry. It makes sense that if you are hungry, you may pile higher calorie foods and less healthy choices into your grocery cart. And if you eat something before heading out to the market, you may make healthier selections.

Now, we've got some research to prove it. Cornell researchers Aner Tal and Brian Wansink published a research letter in the JAMA Internal Medicine showing that hungry shoppers end up buying more calories.

The findings were supported by field studies in actual grocery stores. Subjects went food shopping when they were more likely to be hungry (during the higher hunger hours between 4 and 7 p.m.) and when they were less likely to be hungry, (during the lower-hungry, after lunch hours, between 1 and 4 p.m.). Those who went food shopping during the higher hunger hours purchased fewer low-calorie foods relative to high-calorie foods compared with those who shopped in the earlier period.

The authors concluded that:

Given the prevalence of short-term food deprivation, this has important health implications. It suggests that people should be more careful about their choices when food-deprived and possibly avoid choice situations when hungry by making choices while in less hungry states (e.g., by eating an appetizer before shopping).

The takeaway message is simple: Eat a snack before going food shopping.

I suggest eating a healthy snack containing some fiber and protein to help you feel full and keep blood sugar levels at bay. Fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains are great sources of fiber, and nuts, nut butters (moderation, of course), hummus, and low fat dairy contain protein.

Here are some client favorites:

1. An apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

2. A cup of watermelon and cantaloupe with a half cup low fat cottage cheese.

3. One cup mixed vegetables -- baby carrots, celery, red peppers -- with 2 tablespoons hummus

4. A low fat Greek yogurt with mixed blueberries and raspberries.

5. A fruit smoothie: ½ cup fat free milk blended with fruit of choice (kiwi, strawberries, banana) and crushed ice.

6. An ounce of whole grain crackers with a slice of part-skim cheese.

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