The Health Halo Effect

After making a healthy choice, say choosing vegetables instead of french fries or salmon instead of steak, we typically feel pretty good about ourselves. Rightfully so, since choosing these healthier choices can lead to decreased risk for many different diseases. However, what if choosing these healthier foods led to an increase in calorie consumption, also known as the “health halo” effect.

According to Brian Wansink, PhD, who heads up the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, choosing foods that are labeled as healthy can get people to eat more food than intended. Studies have shown that when eating a low fat snack compared to a regular, most people ended up eating more calories from the low fat version simply because they thought it was better for them. This is not to say that low fat varieties are unhealthy, especially when it comes to dairy. Choosing low fat foods is typically going to be a healthier choice as long as you don’t overeat the low fat version just because it’s low fat. A comparable thing happens when “organic” is added to a label. During a study, individuals thought the organic cookies had few calories than the regular, however, calories were the exact same in both.

The bottom line, keep making those healthier choices, but remind yourself that just because it is “healthier” doesn’t mean you need more of it. EVERYTHING in moderation is always key to a healthier lifestyle.