Photo: Roxanne Cooke, Flickr
Bad news for dieters: According to a new study, you may be eating less healthy than you think you are -- all because you're on a diet.
It's simple, really. If you're watching your weight, you're more likely to be conscious of how food is labeled and to pick foods that sound healthier. A "smoothie" is better than a "milkshake," right? "Veggie chips" are healthier than "potato chips."
Except when they aren't.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers served up a plateful of vegetables, pasta, salami and cheese on a bed of romaine lettuce. To some study participants, the dish was presented as a "salad," and to others it was called "pasta." Dieters were wary when it was called "pasta," but presumably gobbled it up when it was identified as "salad."
Researchers also labeled the same candy (jelly beans, it seems) either "fruit chews" or "candy chews." So which one do you think dieters rated as more nutritious (and thus were willing to scarf down more of)? You guess it: the "fruit chews."
By and large, non-dieters rated the candy the same, no matter how it was labeled.
"Over time, dieters learn to focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based on product name," the authors write. "Thus, dieters likely assume that an item assigned an unhealthy name (for example, pasta) is less healthy than an item assigned a healthy name (for example, salad), and they do not spend time considering other product information that might impact their product evaluations."
Just chalk it up as yet more scientific proof of how gullible people can be when it comes to food. Earlier this month, we reported on another study that showed unsuspecting consumers were more likely to rate the same foods as healthier and more tasty when they were called "organic."