In the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, investigators found that we are likely to consume more of a certain food if we perceive it to be healthy. Researchers conducted three experiments on three groups of people to reach their findings.
The researchers then asked 40 graduate students to eat a cookie. One cookie was presented to them in packaging with nutritional information that represented it as healthy; the other cookie was portrayed as unhealthy. They were then asked to report their hunger levels.
The third experiment involved 72 undergraduate students who the team assessed to determine how portrayals of food affected the amount of food they ordered prior to watching a short film, and how those portrayals impacted the amount of food consumed during the film.
Researchers found that those who ate the “healthy” cookie reported being more hungry than those who ate the “unhealthy” cookie. The participants who watched the film ordered and consumed larger portions of food during the film when food was portrayed as being healthy compared to when the food was portrayed as unhealthy.
The research team says their findings suggest an irony when it comes to healthy eating; rather than helping to combat obesity, healthy food labels may be contributing to the obesity epidemic by causing us to overeat. They recommend that consumers choose foods that are portrayed as nourishing rather than healthy in order to feel full without overeating.
Personally, I feel safest eating plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. The reality is, we do eat a lot of processed foods so reading the ingredients is crucial. When you believe a specific food is healthy, do you tend to eat more of it? Let us know in the comments below.