It is bad for you…is that why it looks so good?

Recent research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research reveals that messages telling dieters that all sugary snacks are bad to make those snacks all the more compelling.

Is that why a cupcake looks so appealing? As do fries, chocolate, and sundaes. Are negative food messages actually steering you towards unhealthy foods?

Three studies carried out by researchers at Arizona State University revealed that one-sided messages about unhealthy food can encourage people to choose it, rather than deter them.

The study involved giving the participants one-sided or/and two-sided positive and negative messages along with neutral information. It revealed that dieters ate 39 percent more cookies after seeing a “food police” style message that slammed all sugary snacks as “bad” than those who saw a positive message.”

unhealthy food

Nguyen Pham, the co-author of the study, writes that instead of leading dieters to choose healthier options, negative messages “increase the attraction of unhealthy foods”.

The findings clearly suggest that using messages that convey only negative information about food may not have the desired effect. But government and various agencies have for long delivered the message that sugary and fried snacks must be avoided as they are extremely unhealthy.

What’s the way out to making healthier food choices? An infographic titled the Behavioral Science of Eating and released by Cornell Food & Brand Lab exhorts people to “read food labels carefully, prepare smaller amounts of food to avoid waste and to use smaller plates”. It also suggests installing a mirror in the kitchen as this move can help avert unhealthy choices. Don’t forget to make superfoods a part of your daily diet and exercise regularly. All this will ensure that you stick to the healthy habits you swore to at the beginning of the year and get healthier.

Naomi Mandel, the co-author, believes that their research indicates that negative messages about unhealthy food will backfire among dieters. “If you want to change what they eat, a more even-handed message that contains both positive and negative information is the way to go,” she has said.

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Written by Ritu Puri

Ritu Puri

A fruit a day keeps the stress away, says Ritu Puri who has a simple philosophy about good living – a healthy diet equals a happy life.
Puri, who battled weight issues, acne and other feminine health issues as an adolescent, managed to overcome these problems through changes in diet and lifestyle. Her success prompted her to pursue the subject professionally, leading her to a BSc in Home Science followed by an MSc in Food and Nutrition from Lady Irwin College, Delhi University. A training programme with All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), a year at Fortis Hospital and work experience with the Nutrition Foundation of India (NFI), the dietician hopes to one day cure or control serious diseases and disorders with a healthy diet.
Like HealthifyMe, her goal is to keep her clients fit and healthy, and to get started on that path, she recommends choosing natural foods over processed ones. Healthy living is when a person is mentally, socially and physically fit, she says. So reach out to Ritu if you’re looking for wholesome makeover.

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