Chew on This

Watch for healthy labels that lead to overeating

Are your eating and snacking habits being influenced by a health halo?

That is what crosses my mind as clients happily tell me how many “healthy” granola bars they eat each day. When I point out that nutritionally some of these bars are about the same as a candy bar, they react with complete surprise.

Foods that are perceived to be better for you based on the label or brand, and are frequently overeaten, are wearing a health halo.

Research published this past May in the journal Food Quality and Preference illustrates this point. One hundred fifteen shoppers were recruited at a mall in Ithaca, New York. They were served three labeled and paired food items: potato chips, yogurt and a cookie. The items were labeled either organic or regular (in reality, all of the foods were organic, but the tasters were blind to this fact.)

After tasting, the subjects’ taste perceptions were surveyed.

The tasters believed the organic cookies and yogurt tasted lower in fat and calories when compared to their supposed non-organic counterparts. This led them to believe they were lower in calories. The organic cookies were also perceived to have more fiber.

This is a classic health halo and shows how perceptions influence taste.

The perception of fewer calories can lead to people eating more. This was the phenomenon dubbed the Snackwell Syndrome when the fat-free cookies became popular and folks would eat the whole bag thinking they were getting fewer calories. Not true — Snackwell cookies were loaded with sugar.

Interestingly, in this study, results on taste were not significant. Subjects did not find organic tastier. Previous research has shown that people think healthy food does not taste as good as what they perceive as unhealthy.

Remember the label is drawing you in and selling the product, but the nutrition facts label on the back of the product gives you the lowdown on what you are eating. Read it all and please keep an open mind about taste. Healthy tastes delicious.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ask Nancy

    How to find a doctor who makes house calls

    Q. My mom is 82. Her mobility has become limited in the past year, and it has become difficult to take her to appointments with her doctor, who doesn't make house calls. Do you have a list of physicians who specialize in geriatric care and that make house calls? Perhaps you have other suggestions?

  • chew on this

    Chew on this: Thank bees for sweet, golden, healthful honey

    Honey, golden and sweet, is a remarkable product.

  • Skin Deep

    FDA warns about not using Expression as a filler

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people can take injections so lightly. Yes, they are cosmetic and non-invasive, but these treatments require the training and skill only an experienced dermatologist, plastic surgeon, facial plastic surgeon or oculoplastic surgeon possess. Every week I have at least one patient that comes to me to correct filler injected by an inexperienced or inartistic doctor.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category