The key to successful weight loss is making the right food choices. And that isn’t always easy, which is why many dieters have a long list of "bad words" to avoid when choosing what to eat, as well as a shorter list of words to look for as assurance that they’re making healthier choices. ”But as dieters try to navigate through restaurant menus and grocery stores, it seems their obsession with these words is actually working against them.
According to a press release on EurekAlert! for a new article published in the Journal of Consumer’ Research, dieters are more likely than non-dieters to choose unhealthy ‘foods that are labeled as healthy.”
So what’s in a name? Absolutly nothing, according to the authors of ‘the study.
For instance, you may feel good about choosing salad over pasta for lunch, but the’ authors write: "before you congratulate yourself for making a virtuous ‘selection, you might want to consider whether your choice is a salad’ in name only." Many restaurant salads include ingredients that are high-calorie and often less-than-healthy picks, such as meats, cheeses, breads and pasta (not to mention the dressing).
Marketers are well aware of how a "health halo" can sell more products, which is why unhealthy food under the disguise of healthy labels can be found’ everywhere. The press release offers up some other examples. Potato ‘chips are labeled "veggie chips," milkshakes are called "smoothies," ‘and sugary drinks are named "flavoured water."”
In one study, when participants were given samples of a product ‘labeled either "fruit chews" or "candy chews," write the authors, "Dieters perceived the ‘item with an unhealthy name to be less healthful and less tasty than ‘non-dieters." Dieters consumed more of the ‘product when it was labeled "fruit chews." In a similar study,’ participants were presented with a mixture of vegetables, pasta,’ salami and cheese, served on a bed of fresh romaine lettuce. The identical meal was identified as either "salad" or "pasta"; when it was called’ pasta, dieters perceived it as less healthy.
So why are dieters so easily fooled? "Over time, dieters learn to’ focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based’ on product name," the authors explain. They say dieters make assumptions based on the language used. They don’t take into consideration other ‘information that might affect the health value of the food. Non-dieters, who are not as focused on eating a certain way, are’ more likely to dismiss cues that imply healthiness.
What do you think? Are you someone who is easily tricked by the use of "healthy" gimmicks? What factors do you consider when perusing a menu at a restaurant?