Is Online Food Shopping Good For You?

Megan Meyer, PhD
by Megan Meyer, PhD
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Is Online Food Shopping Good For You?

Online shopping is a great way to get items in a quick and convenient fashion and it’s a growing trend. Here, a look at who shops via the internet, the advantages and disadvantages and what foods to prioritize when getting groceries online.


Currently, most grocery shopping occurs in brick-and mortar stores, with online grocery sales predicted to nearly double by 2021. However, according to a 2017 Gallup poll, only 4% of Americans report that they shop online for groceries at least once a week. This is in stark contrast to 83% of Americans who report they shop for groceries in person at least weekly.

Not surprisingly, millennials (18–29 years of age) report that they shop online more compared to other age groups. In addition, those living in major cities are slightly more likely to shop online for groceries. Moreover, working adults are almost two times as likely to do their grocery shopping online, compared to those who aren’t employed.


2018 consumer research survey shows that a little more than 4 in 10 (42%) are not reading nutrition information while purchasing foods online. However, 2/3 of shoppers state that they are reading nutrition information before purchasing food in a physical store. These data points show that as more people move to online food shopping, they may be receiving less information since they are less likely to read nutrition-related information while making purchases online.


The same 2018 study found the most popular food items purchased online are snacks, cereals/breakfast foods and canned goods. This isn’t too surprising as these items have longer shelf-lives and, unlike fresh produce or meat, are not the types of foods most people like to examine before buying. But these foods often contain added sugars, so it’s important to read nutrition labels first.


When shopping online, it can be easy to mindlessly load up on foods you might normally bypass in the store, such as the tempting fudge brownies that pop up on your screen. Instead, it’s a good idea to make a shopping list ahead of time. Stick to fruits and veggies, in fresh, canned, dried or frozen forms, lean protein, whole grains, healthy oils and low-fat dairy. By prioritizing these food options, you can take advantage of the convenience of online shopping while still maintaining healthy habits.

About the Author

Megan Meyer, PhD
Megan Meyer, PhD

Megan is a lover of all things science, food, and fitness. A scientist by training (go Tar Heels!), Dr. Meyer has found that being able to communicate the science is just as important as understanding the science. Dr. Meyer has a BS in Biology from Loyola University Maryland as well as a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a regular contributor to sites like US News & World Report and The Huffington Post. In her spare time, she enjoys whipping up fun recipes in the kitchen, exploring new trails, and spending quality time with loved ones. You can follow her on Twitter.


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