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Perception of “Good” and “Bad” Food Clouds Dieters' Judgment

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Just when we think we’ve out-smarted food and finally have a handle on our quest for smaller waistlines, a new report from the Journal of Consumer Research says the joke may be on us.

Dieting and making healthy food options on the go is not always the easiest task. In recent years, to simplify the process, society has come to accept “salad” as healthy and “pasta” as bad.

Authors of the study, "The Impact of Product Name on Dieters' and Non-Dieters' Food Evaluations and Consumption," said that “dieters are so involved with trying to eat virtuously that they are more likely than non-dieters to choose unhealthy foods that are labeled as healthy.”

Often, consumers who are looking to eat healthy will order a salad simply because we’ve come to accept it as healthy. Most times, however, “restaurant salads can include ingredients that dieters would be likely to avoid (meats, cheeses, breads, and pasta),” according to the University of Chicago’s public press release.

We are more caught up in the name and label of what we consume rather than actually taking an in-depth look at the nutritional value of the foods we are consuming.

For example, in today’s culture we find that potato chips are labeled "veggie chips," milkshakes are called "smoothies," and sugary drinks are named "flavored water." It’s not uncommon for dieters to be fooled by these labels and to actually consume more calories and less healthy options than someone not dieting.

Authors Caglar Irmak from the University of South Carolina, Beth Vallen from Loyola University, and Stefanie Rosen Robinson from University of South Carolina, wrote in the study that "over time, dieters learn to focus on simply avoiding foods that they recognize as forbidden based on product name.

"Thus, dieters likely assume that an item assigned an unhealthy name (for example, pasta) is less healthy than an item assigned a healthy name (for example, salad), and they do not spend time considering other product information that might impact their product evaluations."

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