Menu Labels and My Willpower
Friday, June 16, 2017
Sometimes when I am battling my willpower, I put all the blame on myself. But from today’s NPR SCIENCE FRIDAY radio show about food labeling, I realize why I have so much trouble with restaurant menus. Why it is important to look at menus before you sit down in the restaurant or to evaluate food packaging in the grocery store before you buy that box of cereal.
Whatever you do, don't label the healthy stuff as "healthy"—in food psychology, that's a "red light" for the restaurant patron (also for small children and husbands). ("If I wanted to be healthy I would have gone to the vegan place down the street!"). Menus at restaurants often use very simple, plain words on healthy items but use luscious words for high calorie items. Such as green beans with garlic, herbs & a cheese sauce topped with crispy shallots. Doesn’t that sound better than steamed vegetables, or even grilled veggies with jack cheese? But studies have shown label food with indulgent descriptions such as “Succulent Italian Seafood over crisp greens, rather than “seafood salad” and people chose more vegetables
SOME EXAMPLES FROM THE ACTUAL OUTBACK RESTAURANT MENU
Grilled Chicken on the Barbie 600 CALORIES
Seasoned and wood-fire grilled chicken breast with our signature BBQ sauce and served with fresh seasonal mixed veggies.
OUTBACK CENTER-CUT SIRLOIN, 6 OZ 600 CALORIES
One of the leanest cuts, hearty and full of flavor
BONE-IN NATURAL CUT RIBEYE* 22 OZ, 1080 CALORIES
Bone-in and extra marbled for maximum tenderness. Seasoned and wood-fire grilled over oak.
ALICE SPRINGS CHICKEN® 1190 CALORIES
Wood-fire grilled chicken breast topped with sautéed mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar and honey mustard sauce served with Aussie Fries.
Which one are you more likely to choose when you are facing a menu and you are hungry?
Restaurants rarely use graphics, color highlights, and creative fonts to attract attention to healthy entrees, vegetables and whole grains. On the menu, we don't always notice the healthy stuff first—often our eyes jump directly toward colorful pictures of the pasta or burgers in the center of the menu. Also, look at the placement of the low calorie menu items, often on the bottom at the end of the regular section.
Unhealthy foods have a real flair for marketing with pictures, words and colors. Look at the boxes of cereal in the grocery store aisle. The expensive gluten free granola I buy has no pictures on the package but I buy it because it has the words GLUTEN FREE in large letters. Think of the pictures on the menus at Chili’s, Outback, or any other chain or local restaurant you may go to.
Healthy eating is not just calories in and calories out. It also includes mind over matter. If you don’t believe that healthy foods are exciting or indulgent you may not choose them. Especially true when words are boring describing healthy eating, like sugar free dressing, low calorie or skinny menu choices. So it is not just me lacking will power it is the power of marketing that weakens my willpower.
I have included the link to the NPR SCIENCE FRIDAY website at www.sciencefriday.com. You can listen to the segment. If you go to the article you can find the links to the studies.
THE MINDSET FOR A MILKSHAKE
(could not get the link to work on the blog)