A fat and calorie laden milkshake that is called a fruit smoothie is more likely to fool a dieter, because of its healthy-sounding name, than a non-dieter who has a better chance of checking its nutritional content before deciding whether to consume it.
Dieters progressively make automatic assumptions when selecting the foods they eat, creating a mental list of items they should avoid. For example, those trying to avoid high carbohydrate intake will avoid pasta, regarding that as less healthy than salad, scientists from the University of South Carolina explained.
People who are not on a diet are less concerned about the names given to foods when considering what to consume, and will probably ignore subtle written cues that indicate wholesome and healthy nutritional foods, including the product's name.
The researchers carried out two tests:
- Test 1 - 66 passers-by in the street where asked to identify a new item on a menu. The target item read "onions and red peppers tossed with pasta shells, diced tomatoes, salami, mozzarella cheese, dressed with a savory herb vinaigrette. Served chilled on a bed of fresh romaine lettuce."
The investigators randomly described the menu item as a salad dish to half the passers-by and a pasta dish to the other half. When hearing the term pasta, those who were on a diet viewed the dish as less healthy than when it was described as a salad.
The menu item, regardless of whether it was termed a salad or pasta was identical in both cases and had 900 calories and 60 grams of fat.
- Test 2 - 142 college students were randomly given a chewable product (Jelly Belly candies) called either candy chews or fruit chews - both products were identical.
Those on a diet perceived candy chews as less healthy than fruit chews. More fruit chews were consumed by dieters when hearing fruit chews than candy chews, even though both products were the same. Non-dieters were much less influenced by the product's name.
Dieters tend to have certain taboo food names, which usually include:
- Potato chips
Dieters need to focus more on what really matters - what's in the meal, what its ingredients are. They should completely ignore the marketing hype. Focusing their shopping on fresh fruit and vegetables is probably the best step dieters can take towards achieving their target of ideal bodyweight and a healthy lifestyle.
Put simply - dieters are more drawn by marketing hype, while non-dieters tend to focus more on the food's nutritional content.
"The Impact of Product Name on Dieters' Non-Dieters' Food Evaluations and Consumption"
Caglar Irmak, Beth Vallen, Stefanie Rosen Robinson
The Journal of Consumer Research - p. 000