We all know that person, the one who eats burgers and still loses weight while you eat salad and yogurt and can’t shed a pound. Turns out the problem may not be your appetite; it could be your reading skills. According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, healthy-sounding labels are duping dieters.
“Dieters are so involved with trying to eat virtuously that they are more likely than non-dieters to choose unhealthy foods that are labeled as healthy,” says a report on the new study in Science Daily.
How does this happen? Consider the headline of this recent article: “Is Starbucks any healthier than McDonald’s?” A no-brainer, right? Starbucks=good, McDonald’s=bad. Not always. In one comparison of the chains’ respective fruit and yogurt combinations, Starbucks’ product contained 300 calories while McDonald’s had only 200. Differences in artificial ingredients and preservatives aside, if you overeat calories you will not be a successful dieter.
Another example cited comes from a study in which “participants were given samples of a product, which was labeled either ‘fruit chews’ or ‘candy chews.’” The dieters consumed more of the candy when it was labeled “fruit chews.”
We’ve covered this phenomenon before, in Organic Foods that Are Still Junk Food. As we noted, soda is still soda, even when it contains all-natural cane juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup.
In the end, deep down you know which foods are healthy. Dieters should use nutrition information and ingredient lists to make informed decisions, without relying on industry buzzwords and fancy packaging.