You name it and there are low-fat versions of it. The truth is- any smart food company will create “healthy” alternatives to their original products to keep selling to us. But what they’re selling to us is an illusion that we’re eating healthier. Whether “healthy” is actually healthy is up for debate.
“People think (healthier food) is lower in calories,” said Pierre Chandon, a marketing professor at the INSEAD Social Science Research Center in France, and they “tend to consume more of it.”
A new study led by Barbara Livingstone, a professor at the University of Ulster, found that people tended to underestimate the amount of calories in a serving of “healthier” foods. Given a bowl of coleslaw, the participants of Livingstone’s study served themselves more of the coleslaw labeled “healthier” than the coleslaw labeled “standard”. Despite its label, the “healthier” coleslaw had just as many calories (224 calories per 100 grams) than the “standard” coleslaw (223 calories per 100 grams).
The common misconception that “healthier” or “diet” foods are better for us can lead to trouble. We end up consuming larger portion sizes of the so-called healthy foods, and subsequently more calories. We also have to remember that not all calories are the same! Foods are marketed as being healthier because those labels can influence us to buy and eat those products. We sometimes stereotype food that might be healthy in one aspect as being healthy all around. We’re all guilty of this- but understanding how marketing works can help us make better choices!