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Health halo effect: Why you should never order the salad at a fast food outlet | Brain Fodder

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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Health halo effect: Why you should never order the salad at a fast food outlet | Brain Fodder

Health halo effect: Why you should never order the salad at a fast food outlet | Brain Fodder

https://brainfodder.org/health-halo-effect/

brainfodder.org

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Key Ideas

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.

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. 

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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Don’t Believe Healthy Labels

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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.
The Health Halo Effect

Happens when we overestimate the healthfulness of an item based on a single claim, such as being low in calories or low in fat.

This halo effect makes us more comfortable to eat more than we otherwise would if a product is promoted as low in fat or calories.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet is an effort to go back to eating how we’re biologically designed to eat, allowing us to tap into our genetic potential and start living healthier immediately.

Lose weight on the Paleo Diet
  1. Eat fewer calories than you burn every day.
  2. Eat mostly real food if you want to be healthy.
  3. Do those two things consistently for a decade to KEEP the weight off.

When you only eat real food and avoid all unhealthy food, you’re more likely than not going to run a caloric deficit – and thus lose weight.

Eat the following:
  • Meat – GRASS-FED, not grain-fed. 
  • Fowl – Chicken, duck, hen, turkey.
  • Fish – Wild fish, as mercury and other toxins can be an issue in farmed fish
  • Eggs – Omega-3 enriched cage free eggs.
  • Vegetables – As long as they’re not deep-fried, eat as many as you want.
  • Oils – Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil – think natural.
  • Fruits – Fruits have natural sugar, and can be higher in calories, so limit if you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Nuts – High in calories, so they’re good for a snack only.
  • Tubers – Sweet potatoes and yams. Higher in calories and carbs.

4 more ideas

Organic junk food is still junk food
Organic junk food is still junk food

From a macronutrient perspective, organic junk foods are often identical to their conventional counterparts. 

They tend to be equally high in sugar and low in pro...

Organic isn't always healthy

Many organic brands tend to cater to a health-conscious crowd, meaning they’ll often use less processing or healthier ingredients to appeal to their consumers. But the organic label alone does not guarantee this.

The “health halo” effect
It refers to a scientifically researched phenomenon in which certain claims, such as “low fat” or “made with organic ingredients” can lead us to assume a food is healthier or lower in calories. 

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