Despite a recent trend toward healthy eating behaviors, many consumers still tend to overconsume unhealthy foods because of two facts that work in combination. Unhealthy food is widely associated with being tasty, and taste is the main driver of food decisions.
In a study done to see what affected choice of food participants were presented with a variety of yogurts, each with different levels of sugar and fat. Even when given information about the ingredients, the participants were not more likely to select a healthier yogurt.
Unhealthy eaters were least likely to use information about ingredients when deciding which yogurt to choose, the investigators found. However, both unhealthy and healthy eaters said taste was the main factor in their decision about which yogurt to select, and it could not be overcome by providing them with nutritional information, according to the published study.
“Policy planners must instead find ways to make healthy foods more appealing, by improving the actual taste as well as the packaging and marketing,” researchers said.
“Social campaigns that promote the sense that healthy eating is “cool” would also help”.
“A holistic approach is urgently needed in which food companies, consumers and policy makers, instead of working against one another, manage to find mutually beneficial strategies to combat the world’s alarming obesity epidemic,” the researchers concluded.
•Taste exerts the biggest influence on people’s food choices and many believe that healthy foods don’t taste good.
•Unhealthy eaters were least likely to use information about ingredients.
•Taste is the main driver of food decisions.
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, news release, Jan. 21, 2015. Robert Mai and Stefan Hoffmann How to Combat the Unhealthy = Tasty Intuition: The Influencing Role of Health Consciousness. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing In-Press, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jppm.14.006 (Published in Diabetes in Control Jan 2015)
At Diabetes Diet Blog, we think that encouraging people to eat real food that doesn’t come in packets would come a long way to address the obesity epidemic too. Salt, spices and fats such as butter, coconut oil and olive oil can greatly enhance the flavour of food, particularly vegetables, that otherwise can be left on the plate. Demonising salt and naturally saturated fats does not help. A parent can prepare tasty soups at home but if salt and fat is left out it is understandable when children prefer tinned versions with added sugar.