Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why We Make Bad Choices about Food

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Why We Make Bad Choices about Food

Article excerpt

Previous studies have shown that people tend to eat more when food is served on a larger plate, from a bigger package or if it's labeled "low fat." Now a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that simply adding healthy items to a menu does not promote better food choices by consumers.

The study, led by Gavan Fitzsimons, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University, suggests that people's decision-making about food is much more complex than anyone imagined. For example, we may like the idea of seeing healthy options on a restaurant menu, fast-food display or vending machine, but that doesn't mean we will choose them.

In other words, simply arming people with information about food is not enough. "There is a notion that if we all just had the full nutritional information on menu or food Ítems, we would choose rationally," Dr. Fitzsimons says. "But that isn't so. There are too many unconscious environmental cues that prove to be too strong."

Most surprisingly, when healthier options did become available on a menu, study participants who were thought to have the "highest self-control" were actually more likely to pick the least healthy offering. …

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