Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Turns out you're more likely to indulge in junky food if you have the option of choosing something healthy instead:

In the experiment, 100 college students were presented with two menus. One included fries, chicken nuggets, and a baked potato, and another with those three items--plus a salad. Students were told they could choose one item. Participants' levels of self-control were also measured through separate tests and then analyzed with their choices.

The first menu led to intuitive results: those with high self-control rarely chose fries. But the second menu--offering a healthy option, a salad--showed different behavior: participants with high self-control were "significantly more likely to choose the French fries."

The reason:

"The authors suggest their finding shows that merely presenting a healthy option vicariously fulfils health-related eating goals, drives attention to the least-healthy choice and provides people with license to indulge in tempting foods."

Leaving aside the fact that a baked potato can also be a "healthy option"--so long as you don't smother it in sour cream, butter and (passe) bacon bits--this finding makes me think twice about scoffing at McDonald's for offering salads and sliced apples alongside bacon Macs and supersize fries. Maybe, once again, the fast-food chains are smarter than anyone realized.

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