To Eat Healthier, Don’t Think About Health

The Lempert Report
January 20, 2020

A new study from Stanford University sheds a new light on how we make decisions about eating healthier, and finds that the more we fret about the nutrients the harder it is to eat healthy.

Brad Turnwald, Ph.D., study co-author and postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford Mind & Body Lab, told Thrive "Our culture is used to thinking about how nutritious foods will help our bodies function, look better, or stave off disease, but these aren't our top priorities when we're hungry and want something that tastes good," This can lead to a mindset that healthy eating is boring and even depriving.

Focus on taste and how delicious healthy foods can be the study finds.

Turnwald's study found that being mindful of these "experiential" elements of eating could help you choose wisely. Healthy foods have so much more to offer than mere vitamins and nutrients, such as delicious crunch, a colorful feast for the eyes, and, yes — a ton of flavor, Thrive recommends. This could be as simple as topping a salad with some fresh herbs, or keeping a bottle of hot sauce at work to amp up the flavor of an otherwise "boring" plate. These strategies can "help us enjoy eating nutritious foods time and again and feel satisfied when we do because we aren't in a mindset of restriction," Turnwald says. 

So for supermarkets and grocerants, merchandising taste and flavor along side healthy attributes, on signage and dietitian picks may be the more effective tool to change behaviors.