What Is a Health-Halo

What Is a Health-Halo

It’s when people overestimate the healthiness of a food item because of unwarranted correlations. Research indicates that this effect causes people to consume larger portions and may even be a cause of obesity. 

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The Health Halo Effect

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Mental Shortcuts

We don’t have complete control of our decision-making because we take mental shortcuts, using inbuilt biases which are supposed to improve the efficiency of our choices and actions.

We often use these shortcuts when deciding what to eat. For instance, we might decide that a food is healthy because it’s labeled as natural, organic, ‘low-fat’ or ‘low-calorie, when in fact these terms can be deliberately misleading.

Subway Vs. Mcdonalds

A study comparing the two restaurants found that those who ate at Subway underestimated the calories in their meals more than those who ate at McDonald's.

Because Subway sandwiches are considered healthier, people are more likely to add a cookie and a soda. While people who eat at McDonald's are not under the health-halo so they’re less likely to order sides with a Big Mac.

When Healthy Leads To More Calories

Research indicates that people don’t check the labels and assume that products marketed as healthy contain fewer calories than standard items. They see the “healthy” items as representing the less guilty option and so eat more of them.

Get a Real Healthy Halo
  • Avoid fast food.
  • Stay away from high-fat preparation methods (fried, deep-fried, batter-dipped, breaded, crispy, etc. )
  • Stick to your calorie consumption goal.
  • Cut condiments like mayo, sauces and dressings
  • Watch what you put on the side – avoid high-fat sides like fries and choose undressed salad instead.

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Research On The Health Halo Effect
  • This effect often leads to consumers confusing “low fat” with “low calorie”, which results in the overconsumption of the former.
  • When choosing between similar products with different names, consumers prefer products with healthier-sounding names.
  • If you are eating at a restaurant you believe is healthy, you assume that the food choices you are making are healthy as well.
  • People who think their meal is healthy are more likely to add side dishes, drinks and desserts, resulting in over twice as many additional calories.
  • Items marketed by firms known as socially responsible stewards are assumed to be better and healthier products.

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Research On ‘Health Halos’

Protein bars are perceived as having an increased protein content and as healthier overall when the label reads “protein bar“ and “good source of protein. ”

Baked Chips

Chips are not the most nutritious option for snack time, but baked versions usually contain less fat than traditional varieties. But, this drop in fat can be offset with increased sodium and sugar.

Bake your own veggie chips at home. 

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