Photo Credit: Adam Gault
I’ve always wondered, when I hear parents complain that their kids won’t eat their vegetables, why don’t we just start telling little ones from the get-go that Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are yummy desserts, special-occasion goodies that are mostly for grown-ups? My thought process is that by making fibrous, vitamin-packed health food seem off-limits, it will make kids crave them that much more, like smores, or Miller Lite. They want what they can’t have, so maybe if we pretend that broccoli is just a bushy green Snickers, they’ll clamor for it like they currently do with mac 'n cheese or Twizzlers.
I know, I know, it ain’t gonna happen. But I’m not completely off base: In a new Journal of Consumer Research study, researchers found that when people were asked to taste food described as "healthy," they reported being hungrier afterward than those who ate the same food when it was described as "tasty."
As study author and University of Chicago professor of behavioral science and marketing Ayelet Fishbach explained it, "When people feel they are required to eat healthy food, eating that food makes them hungry. They are hungrier than if they didn't eat anything at all or if they'd eaten that food without thinking of its healthiness."
This does not bode well for those of us who strive to eat, well, “healthy.” It’s the last part of Fishbach’s quote that makes me especially scared – people were hungrier after eating something "healthy" than if they hadn't eaten at all?! So I could either a) order the "Grilled Skinless Chicken Salad with Spinach and Beets" at a restaurant and then still feel my stomach rumble as I munch the last bits of greens and pine for "Mama’s Sweet Maple Walnut and Beet Salad with Herb-Encrusted Goat Cheese" on the menu, or b) just have a glass of water and be content?
In one experiment, 51 college students were given a chocolate-raspberry protein bar. Some students were told they were sampling a new protein-, vitamin- and fiber-packed "health bar"; others were told it was a "chocolate bar that is very tasty and yummy with a chocolate-raspberry core." When they were later asked to rate their hunger, those who sampled the "health bar” rated themselves hungrier than those who ate the identical "tasty" bar.What does this mean for 3 MUSKETEERS, who now proudly and loudly tout on their shiny silver label that they contain “45% less fat” than other leading chocolate bars?
Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., said these results suggest that encouraging healthy eating is much more complex than simply telling people how many servings of fruits and vegetables they should eat every day. "The perception that 'healthy' isn't going to meet enjoyment goals is a very strong message for all of us. Healthy foods must taste good. Unfortunately, people assume they won't taste good. And even if it tastes good, their brain may be telling them otherwise."
Anyone who’s ever dined in a restaurant with a relatively creative menu knows that how a food is labeled can sway you in one direction or the other. Some examples:
"Mashed potatoes" are easy to pass up, while "Buttery Garlic Smashed Potatoes" are a must-have.
"Nachos" are a dime-a-dozen, but the "Mexican Fiesta Guac Explosion" sounds like a party in your mouth.
"Mussels" are for old people; "Angry Mussels Seafood Stew" practically begs to be ordered.
"Chocolate ice cream" is just eh, but "New York Super Fudge Chunk" makes your taste buds ooze.
I suppose we can empower ourselves with this info and, each time we dine, make a conscious realization that food is food, whether it’s called a Fiber One Oats and Chocolate bar or a Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate bar, and that if we’re dedicated to eating in a healthy way, that means looking past the words on labels and menus and ordering whole, wholesome foods that are mostly found in nature. But remember, it won’t kill you to order the Chocolate Orgasm Martini every once in a while – indeed, it might only make you stronger.
Do you feel hungrier after eating something considered healthy? Chime in below.