In today’s NY Times, John Tierney explains a simple but fascinating experiment about the perceived healthiness of foods.
Random passersby in Park Slope were shown two lunches. One was an Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad and a Pepsi. The other was the same lunch, plus two crackers advertised as “Trans Fat Free.” The subjects estimated that the lunch with the crackers had fewer calories than the one without, presumably because the “health halo” of crackers also enveloped the rest of the lunch.
This health halo also extends to brands of food or restaurants with healthful images, and actions like NYC’s trans fat ban may create more confusion and subconscious compensation. So, Tierney asks, what’s the solution?
I’ve got one. I walked into Quizno’s today with a hankering for a footlong toasted turkey sub. And I walked out without buying it. Why? Because the calories are enumerated up on the menu. That sandwich would have packed 500-plus calories for a six-inch. Add my extra pepper sauce and a bag of Sun Chips (also junk food with a health halo), and we’re talking about a 1,200-calorie lunch.
Calorie labeling at the point of decision. What a concept!