When it comes to choosing healthy food, dieters tend to make snap judgments about the healthfulness of the food based on what it's called rather than actually examining what's in them.
A new study suggests that dieters get so hung up on food labels -- "pasta" versus "salad," for example, or "veggie chips" versus potato chips, or "milk shakes" versus "smoothies" -- that they perceive a food marketed with a more benign name as healthier and tastier, reports Time Magazine.
Dieters are hyper-conscious of certain taboo food names -- like pasta, ice cream, potato chips and candy -- than people who aren't watching their weight, and become so focused on avoiding them that they "fail to take note of what really matters: the product's ingredients, not the marketing hype," says Time.
For example, in one experiment, participants were given two of the exact same food dish containing romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions, red peppers, pasta shells, salami, mozzarella cheese and a savory herb vinaigrette. One plate was given as the "daily salad special," and the other as the "daily pasta special."
When the dieters were given the dish called pasta, they rated it as much less healthy than non-dieters did. (The label "salad" didn't make much of a difference in the rating between the dieters and the non-dieters.)
In another experiment, dieters and non-dieters were asked to rate the healthfulness and tastiness of sour Jelly Belly beans -- presented as either "fruit chews" or "candy chews."
"Not only were dieters more likely to rate the candy chews as less healthy and less tasty than non-dieters did, but also, ironically, they ate more of the snack when it was referred to as fruit chews," reports Time.
So don't be fooled by the name of a food, whether at the supermarket or in the restaurant. Pay attention to the ingredients in the new foods you try.