by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
When you’re watching your calories, all foods are scrutinized for calories, portions, and nutrient richness. And now it appears that food choice is also influenced by how a food is described.
An interesting study published on-line in the Journal of Consumer Research (April 12, 2011) found that consumer views of a “healthy choice” were largely based on the perception of health, based on how it is listed on a menu. And, a big difference in response was found between those self-described as “on a diet” compared with non-dieters.
A “pasta salad” (containing greens, tomatoes, onions, as well as pasta, meat, and cheese) was evaluated by both dieters and non-dieters. When termed a “daily salad special” both groups ranked this salad as a healthy choice. When listed as a “daily pasta special”, the dieters decided this was NOT a healthy choice – but it was the same salad ingredients! Non-dieters ranked both salads the same.
This opens up a lot of questions about how dieters and non-dieters choose foods. While the non-dieters seemed to be most interested in the actual ingredients to rate their choice, the dieters were heavily influenced by the description of the meal.
My bottom line? When it comes to selecting foods, it’s important to be a saavy consumer and look for ingredients, not buzzwords! Has this kind of labeling affected your own food choices? Let me know!