Sunday, September 2, 2007

Consumer Research Shows "Healthy" Restaurants Inspire Increased Calorie Intake

[Pardon my abbreviated post on this holiday weekend in the States.]

A new report is out dealing with the behavior of Americans who visit so called "healthy" restaurants. It appears that when offered a lower-calorie main course, whether in a fine dining establishment or in a fast food location like a Subway sandwich shop, the average consumer will more than make up for the calories saved by ordering other items in larger quantities.

This important new study from the Journal of Consumer Research explains the “American obesity paradox”: the parallel rise in obesity rates and the popularity of healthier food.

These researchers reveal that we over-generalize “healthy” claims. In fact, consumers chose beverages, side dishes, and desserts containing up to 131% more calories when the main dish was positioned as “healthy." And as the author's point out, our impressions of what is "healthy" are often completely overblown--some Subway sandwiches contain more calories than a Big Mac, for example.

In one study, Chandon and Wansink had consumers guess how many calories are in sandwiches from two restaurants. They estimated that sandwiches contain 35% fewer calories when they come from restaurants claiming to be healthy than when they are from restaurants not making this claim.

“These studies help explain why the success of fast-food restaurants serving lower-calorie foods has not led to the expected reduction in total calorie intake and in obesity rates,” the authors write (see link attached to headline).


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