Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Food Labels May Fool Snap-Judging Dieters

Dieters have a reputation for being picky eaters and label-readers. If people are trying to lose weight or they have other specific nutritional concerns, like allergies, the golden rule is "don't eat it if you can't read it". For the most part, this dietary discrimination is useful, if not essential, but new research has found that many dieters actually have lots of brushing up to do on their label reading skills. When deciding whether or not foods are healthy, dieters are often duped.

According to the report which was a joint effort by professors or marketing and graduate students from a range or U.S. universities, dieters are quick to pass judgment on foods based on key words that they read on food packages, rather than the ingredients themselves. Quite often, what they think is the 'healthier' choice in fact isn't.

The study authors found that people tend to associate different words with "forbidden" and "allowed foods" which they use to decide whether foods are healthy or not. In reality, however, they aren't selecting for healthier foods, they're discriminating against what they perceive as 'unhealthy' ones. For example, foods with labels bearing the word 'pasta' might get the boot, while 'salads' are assumed to be healthy. The trouble is, without the benefit of knowing the actual ingredients in each dish, it is virtually impossible to make an informed decision with regards to the healthfulness of food products.

According to the authors, with the increased use of 'health-washed' words like 'smoothie', 'flavoured water' and 'veggie chips', people are getting confused or tricked into buying unhealthy foods masquerading as health food superheroes. So, to make things easier (and healthier) for yourself, don't forget the golden rules of nutrition facts and ingredient label reading, which you can easily find here.