Avoiding Cookies at the Cleaners

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Robert J. Davis, Ph.D editor-in-chief, Everwell.com We’ve all heard the usual explanations for Americans’ expanding waistlines--everything from too many carbs to too little exercise. But might hardware stores and hair salons also be responsible? The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem.

Virtually everywhere we go these days--pharmacies, bookstores, banks, airports, auto repair shops--there’s food. And much of it is in the form of high-calorie snacks like sodas, cookies, muffins and chips, all of which can be hard to resist.

A new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, provides startling evidence of just how ubiquitous these temptations are. The researchers sent volunteers to visit more than 1,000 retail stores in 19 U.S. cities. They found that snack foods were available in 41 percent of businesses, often close to the cash register.

Some of the stores were places you’d expect to find food, such as pharmacies and gas stations. But many others were not. More than one in five furniture stores sold snacks, as did 16 percent of clothing stores, 54 percent of car dealerships, and 55 percent of home and garden stores.

Let’s assume you’re exposed twice per week to these temptations and succumb just 10 percent of the time, buying a snack containing 250 calories. The researchers calculated that this would add up to 2,600 extra calories a year. Keep doing this for several years, and before you know it, you’re packing on pounds.

As this video from Everwell shows, the more accessible that snack foods are, the more we tend to eat. Unfortunately, steering completely clear of them isn’t an option (unless you’re willing to never leave your house). One solution is to become more mindful of what and how much we’re eating and to think twice before we buy. If that big muffin at the bookstore is beckoning you, try counting to 10 and asking yourself “am I really sure I want to eat this?” Often the answer will be no, and you can summon the willpower to skip the snack.

It’s also a good idea to carry healthful, lower-calorie snacks with you. That way, when the sight of an oversized cookie gives you the urge to eat, you can grab an apple or a handful of nuts. And by not blowing money on snacks in the store, you’ll have a little more to spend on what you came to buy in the first place.

For more health and wellness tips, and a chance to win and an iPod or SparkPeople Store gift card, click here.

About the author
Robert J. Davis, Ph.D, is president and editor-in-chief of Everwell. An award-winning health journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, PBS, WebMD and in The Wall Street Journal, he is the author of The Healthy Skeptic: Cutting Through the Hype About Your Health. He also teaches at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Davis holds a Ph.D in health policy from Brandeis University, where he was a Pew Fellow, a master’s degree in public health from Emory, and an undergraduate degree from Princeton University.

About Everwell
Headquartered in Atlanta, Everwell is the brand of MediVista Media. The company produces and distributes original, award-winning video content that entertains and informs consumers about health and wellness. Developed by a team of seasoned media professionals, the content is editorially independent and reviewed for accuracy by a panel of physicians. Visit Everwell.com to learn more about the network and Everwell’s other platforms, to explore Everwell’s consumer Web site and to subscribe to e-newsletters, podcasts and text messages.

Editor's note: SparkPeople and Everwell have a co-promotional agreement. Everwell is Spreading the Spark through their promotional outlets, while we're telling our members about Everwell.

What is the strangest place you've ever seen food for sale?

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The strangest place I think is at the mechanic shop where I drop off my car - their junk food is overpriced and the place smells like burnt oil, so I can't imagine that doesn't make the food taste good.

Someone mentioned their YMCA selling snacks - ours did too - all kinds of junk! I complained to the management and basically told them "what's the point in working out, only to have horribly high calorie junk food snacks available?" and mentioned to them that I knew machines existed that allowed one to buy healthy items like yoghurt, apples, oranges, fruit juices, sandwiches made with lean cut meats, etc - because I bought that kind of stuff from the machines at my local university campus while I was a student. The YMCA I guess had to hum and haw and meet with all the various locations in our county, but eventually the machines were replaced. Yaaaay!! Report
True enough - food is everywhere. Vending machines usually don't tempt me but other food displays might, depending what it is. Taking healthy snacks along is a really good idea. Report
Wow! I never thought about being tempted to eat at the cleaners, the bank, etc. Sometimes they have suckers for the kids, but I've never been drawn to vending machines and don't really notice them. Report
No one makes anyone buy that stuff. I figure most of it is there to appease gripping kids that Mothers have to take along with them while doing errands. I seem them in the beauty shop, laundry(dry cleaners), and auto shops. Report
I don't even see the vending machines, because I have a "blind spot" toward things that demand money. If I have to pay for it (unless I'm grocery shopping, of course), I don't want it.
However, I work for a doctor's office and our patients are always asking where the vending machines are. They always act surprised when we tell them we don't have any. Report
The strangest place you've ever seen food for sale was on a part of the bike trail in the middle of winding, tree lined path just before a bridge. Kids selling homemade rice crispy treats. Report
The last time I bought anything at a vending machine--cookies--it was crawling with bugs. As gross and nauseating as that was, it was a blessing. I've NEVER wanted to buy anything from a vending machine again. That was one wasted $.95 well-spent! Report
I guess I can be grateful for being a skinflint, because I have to be really, really hungry to buy a snack from a vending machine. I'd rather wait until I get home, or pre-plan and bring my own. Those things cost so much more! Report
Seems like vending machines are every where. Not only are we a fast food nation but a vending machine nation. I never really thought about it because I always thought of them as part of the wall decor. Wow they really are everywhere! Report
good info to remember. Report
I read this yesterday...then went to pick my dog up after a 2 hour 15 minute surger...the vets office had a vending machine full of chips, candy & soda! Amazing. I never noticed before but after reading the cookies at the cleaners part...I started looked. LOL Report
What struck me after reading this...I remember going to a college where a friend wanted me to do her gym workout with her. We had an hour workout in the gym and then ran a track for a mile. After we were done we were going out of the locker room and there was a candy and soda machine...needless to say, since I was young then...when I indulged on the machines...we tended to still loose weight. That surely wouldn't work for me now, and what a loss of effort we did for the workout! Report
For me the water/soda machine after you have been in a super walmart shopping is a God send. After walking for 2-3 hrs shopping I need something cold to drink!! Now snack machines everywhere you go seems wasted on me. I carry my own little just in case I am out where their might be temptations of things I do not need!! Report
hmmm...thinking about this, I've seen soda machines in front of BJs and Walmart. Isn't that what you're going inside to buy ?? Why have a machine outside when their is soda inside. that always struck me as a conflict of interests. anyway...

Where have I seen snack machines ? I can't even think of a place. My gym "had" a snack machine, but it was loaded with those muscle building protein bars.

Now, here's something interesting I heard on the news last night. a local laundry wants to get a LIQUOR license so that they can sell beer and wine on the premises !! Yes, the owner thinks that more people will do their laundry at his location IF he sells people a drink while they wait for those clothes to dry.

He doesn't see this as being problematic.
Great article! A year or so ago, I noticed in the lobby of my Kaiser hospital that they had machines full of junk food! I couldn't believe it! So many of our health problems are due to the crap we eat...and here was a hospital just helping the problem! I wrote a letter to them concerning this and they were going to review it. I haven't been back in a long time, so I don't know if they still have them....but really, isn't that absurd? Report
No one is responsible for what I put in my mouth but me. That being said, watching TV (with commercials) does tend to put the idea of eating things less than nutritious into my head. I also have the choice to listen to those ideas, or not, OR turn off the TV! Making snack foods less accessible is a tool that helps. I don't buy those sorts of foods to sit around at home but I have the ingredients available to make a healthier muffin - so I've got to really want it to get up and make the muffin from scratch. ;) Report
Cookies (for free) sitting out on the counter at the Vet Office - right next to the doggy biscuits --- GROSS (probably full of hair & who knows what else in the air). Report
I understand it's not the strangest, but when I went to pick my 13 year old granddaughter up at school, I had to check in at the Principal's office. Halfway between the entrance to the building and the Principal's office, there it was in all it's glory. A huge vending machine - Three Musketeers, Mounds, M&M's, etc.

To complete the snack, right next to it was a Coke vending machine.

When I asked my son why (he's active on the school board), he said that cuts from the state had made it necessary to keep the student:teacher ratio where they needed (wanted) it to be.

That was last year, and this year I'm going to be asking tough questions of any candidates for the position of State Representative. Education shouldn't have to be sacrificed to the already deplorable condition of our youth..

My granddaughter has slender built into her genes and when she is into her sports stuff (that is, all year), she can consume close to 3,000 calories on some active days. When she's not burning as much energy, her intake drops accordingly.

In the summer, when she spends about half a day or more in our pool, she eats like a wolf. Report
Its so easy to reach for a treat and so hard to work it off! Why is candy more cheaper than fruit??? Keep up the good work Report
Just because it's being sold, is no reason to purchase it. The strangest place I saw a vending machine was in lobby of a restaurant. Report
I think vending machines where I get my oil changed. Report
The weirdest one I ever saw was the auto parts store. Report
I've noticed the candy at the hardware store. Unfortunately, my husband has even bought some there when we've gone to get a tool. (I swear he has no willpower!) I've also noticed that Michael's & JoAnn's craft stores have started selling candy at the counters as well. Even Macy's sometimes has Godiva or some other fancy chocolates near the register. More & more places are trying to squeeze a little more in sales out of us by placing candy & other small impulse items near the register. I think Fry's Electronics is the master of this, though--a long aisle to get to the row of registers, completely filled on both sides with snacks, small gadgets & other impulse buy stuff. Report
After reading so many entries it makes you realize just how assaulted we are by vendors trying to sell food. They are trying to make a living in a clever way but we still have the power to choose and that will never be taken away from us. So KEEP YOUR POWER! Report
Beer at the Catholic church while I am waiting in line to buy fish on a Friday night. Just made me LOL. Report
My husband works part time at Ace Hardware and I am shocked by the amount of Candy and Ice Cream bars they sell. Really, Ice Cream and a ratchet, why not?? Report
This is one of the things I'm thankful for Celiac Disease. Can't have gluten and it's in 99% of crap in vending machines so I'm not tempted.
Can't think of any weird spots but the tire chain here has vending machines plus offers free popcorn and coffee. Personally I get nauseated with the smell of all the rubber so the thought of eating the free popcorn is gross to me. Report
The worst place is at the animal park or the zoo. The thought of people especially kids touching the animals and then eating is not worth thinking about. More people are setting up sanitizer stations so not only I find it to be a problem.
Vending machines like check out lines are just awful these days. Kids know that is the place of least resistence. The best time to whine for candy and alas so many parents weaken and buy just to keep the child quiet. I am a mean Grammy If the grandkids go with me they are told ahead of time I will not be buying anything to eat in this store. If you whine for candy I will abandon the cart and leave the store. I did that with my children and life was much easier that way. After they behave we usually hit the playground or plan some thing together. They soon catch on. Pat in Maine Report
I have never gone somewhere that I have gotten something from a vending machine that I didn't want, but when I do get tempted I see it as a treat not the end of my waistline. I also have a daughter that is diabetic and when she goes to low, the machines have really helped us out.
there are also many countries that have vending machines, coffee, tea, snacks etc, and they don't think anything wrong about it. snack stores and vending machine at rest stops and at the end of walking paths or parks. they just enjoy the treat and relax. we seem to grab and go, eating on the way to soccor practice or piano lessons etc. I have be there and done that, now I want the relax and talk with my friends and share the treat and a cup of tea. Report
The strangest place I've ever seen snack foods is ... AT THE GYM!

To celebrate their grand opening, the gym had a buffet of greasy pizza, DONUTS, potato chips, tons of candy, soda and wine! I could not believe it, at the gym of all places! There wasn't a veggie plate to be found anywhere.

And the gym continues to have a vendor every now and then hawking food. It's so weird to me. Report
My cleaners has complimentary candy, popcorn and donuts out for their customers. My salon is an interesting place because the stylists are always eating and/or ordering food. Vendors are constantly coming in and out of the salon. I work in production so I have made it a habit never to offer unhealthy items as part of my craft service. FREE FOOD is a distraction. Lately restaurants are having free pancakes, sandwiches, pretzel, smoothie, coffee etc.. to get you in the door to eat more and more and more. Report
I'd probably be tempted more if they didn't charge double what you can the stuff for somewhere else; about the only time I hit a vending machine is if I'm stuck somewhere (hospital ER, etc.) and have no other choice. And, so many of them take my money. Am I cheap or what? Linda C Report
I can't think of a very strange place. Probably the most disconcerting is at the hairdresser's, where I'd rather be offered a cup of tea than a chocolate-covered pretzel. Report
The only thing I'll buy from Vending is a bottle of water. It is hard to resist the candy at the check-out line. So of the 10% of the time that I give in, 8% I get gum - the other 2% I get the candy. Report
I read most of these posts and thought the cemetary was the wierdest place for junk food to be sold. At our office people often bring in goodies and leave them in the kitchen for any one. I do it too when I want to get something out of my house. But a great well intentioned diet can go haywire if you happen to come across the wrong food at the wrong time! I really liked this article :) Report
The strangest place I've ever seen food sold was in the middle of nowhere - on the side of a road leading up to the top of the Grand Mesa in Colorado. And they weren't just selling food - they were making smoothies using a generator on the back of a truck! The entrepreneurs had bought massive amounts of strawberries, bananas, whey protein, ice and milk and were whipping up heathy smoothies for people like us - doing Ride the Rockies (RTR). That year RTR did the Grand Mesa, its hardest single day ride. It was my first RTR and I had no idea of the difficulty of this ride. After riding about 40 miles, we started a 20-mile uphill climb to the Grand Mesa. The first 10 miles were so steep - you just stayed in your granny gears the whole time. This was where we encountered the smoothie station! We were SO thankful to have food in the middle of nowhere. There was a rest stop at the very top of the Grand Mesa (and I'm sure there was at least one rest stop on the way up as well), but the official "food" was only oranges, bananas and a sports drink - not enough to power up such a tough ride. Other entrepreneurs were at the top selling burritos, sandwiches, etc. This was the toughest bicycling day I've ever had! Report
Candy in the bathroom of bars.... Report
Department stores at the mall next to the bathrooms. 2 vending, 1 soda, and a coffee machine. They cover everybody. Report
Bad food is pushed on us from every angle. No wonder so many people are overweight. Children are rewarded with junk food and commercials show us that you must eat at fast food restaurants if you want good food. I have cooked at home all of my life and eat out occasionally. My children have always been healthy. My bad habits have made me overweight. I am amazed at what people eating out with us consider good food when it is garbage. Junk food is cheap. I was even amazed to see that while our spark emotioncons are mostly good rewards, we still see cupcakes, candy and french fries. It's everywhere! Report
The vending machine at our local Y drives me nuts. This is supposed to be a nonprofit, health-oriented place, and they've got chips and candy bars for sale at the front entrance. Water, trail mix, and protein bars I can understand, but that's not what they're selling.

I don't bring my wallet in to the Y when I work out, so it's not a temptation to me, but I can't tell you how many KIDS break down in front of that thing. Report
Our local YMCA sells snack foods as well as bottled soda - not what we need after we work out! Report
Vending machines with all kinds of junk food at my gym. Report
at the Jiffy Lube, where you could get an oil change, new windshield wipers, and coffee and cookies---no thank you very much! Report
The weirdest place I've seen food for sale: in the ladies room -- I think it was at a Wal-Mart Report
My Insurance agents office had a couple of machines from which to purchase snacks!! Report
we as a nation are just destroying ourselves with chemicals especially in our food! Just Say No!!! Report
They are everywhere! Report
SID office Report
I just came from the DMV where they had baskets of candy bars at every window. It was a fundraiser. March of Dimes I think. Report
I think it is amusing when gyms have snack food for sale in their lobby. I was visiting a gym when I went to californina to see my family, and they had an icecream machine in the lobby. Right next to it was a coke machine. I thought it was funny... I guess that's one why to ensure members retention. Keep them from losing weight. Report
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