As the COVID-19 pandemic eases, many of us have started to resume our regular routines, including in-store shopping. And while it may feel good to shop with less anxiety—even without a mask, if local regulations allow it—we're reminded that coronavirus isn't the only thing to be wary about when filling up our carts. Certain bad shopping habits can seriously tax your health, not to mention your wallet. These are five things you should never do when shopping, experts say. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
Don't Go Right After a Workout
If you're in the market for clothes, a watch, a car, or other potentially big-ticket items, you might not want to go shopping right after the gym. A 2018 study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that men who received a single boost of testosterone demonstrated a higher preference for "status goods"—luxury items associated with superficial cultural cachet. What does working out do? It boosts testosterone. Researchers think that may activate our primal instinct to be top dog. (Although the study involved men, the scientists noted other research has found that T also makes women crave status.) To avoid overspending, you may want to shop as a warmup, not a cooldown.
Don't Forget the Hand Sanitizer
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, experts were warning about what you could catch in the grocery store. One study found that refrigerator-case handles contain more than 1,200 times the bacteria found on the average cellphone. Another determined that more than half of shopping carts harbor disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli. To stay safe, wipe your cart handle with antibacterial wipes if they're available, use hand sanitizer after you grocery shop, and thoroughly wash any produce once you get it home.
Careful of Use Dirty Reusable Bags
The reusable bag trend is booming as big states like New York have recently outlawed single-use plastic bags. That's great for the environment, but maybe not for your health. A 2011 study by the University of Arizona found bacteria in 99% of reusable bags they tested—and 8% carried E. coli, which can indicate fecal contamination. What's more, only 3% of reusable bag owners said they cleaned them regularly. Pro tip: Wash your multi-use bags with hot water and disinfectant weekly.
Don't Shop When You're Hungry
It's a golden rule: Hitting the grocery store when your stomach's empty may lead to overloading your cart. But shopping when you're hungry doesn't just make you crave food. A 2015 analysis of studies at the University of Michigan found that people who shop when they're hungry have a higher appetite for acquiring more of anything—including non-food items as unexciting as paper clips. "This presumably occurs because hunger renders acquisition-related concepts and behaviors more accessible, which influences decisions in situations to which they can be applied," the researchers wrote. Translation: When we're hungry, we go a little hog-wild.
Don't Skip Checking Labels for These Ingredients
Added sugar and excessive sodium are two major dangers in the standard American diet. Consuming too much of the first can lead to type 2 diabetes, the second to high blood pressure. Both can increase your risk of obesity, heart attack, and stroke. Added sugar lurks within more grocery store products that you'd believe — including low-fat yogurt, bread and pasta sauce. And frozen meals and canned vegetables can be chock-full of sodium. Always check nutrition labels and aim to buy products with little or no added sugar and as little sodium as possible. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh, and they contain a fraction of the sodium of canned. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.