Monthly Archives: April 2014

Weekly Review

Things went pretty well this week.  In honor of my thesis, and that being the only thing on my mind, I posted two posts about my nerdy passion, food psychology.  This was kind of cheating for me because I had already done plenty of research on the topics but I still spent on a few hours on them reworking things to make it stylized for a blog.  Not that it’s obvious or anything but I have a few opinions on food marketing and how it is affecting the health of consumers.  Another not so obvious thing, I’m pretty quiet but if you feel like letting me talk your ear off for an hour just ask my opinion on low-fat.

Initially I was only going to do one post about my thesis topic, which quickly escalated to being very long so I broke it down into sections.  First I started out with some history about processed food in order to provide some background and understanding of why things are the way they are now.  Then I moved onto the marketing of processed foods and how that affects consumers purchasing decisions.  After that I introduced the theory the “Health Halo” effect.  This post brings everything all together and looks at how processed food and the marketing of it affects us psychology when we consume these products.  To end the week on a lighter note I did a post on hummus because it is delicious and I missed doing posts about food.

4/23 Process Food Through the Years
4/25 Marketers Use Words to Influence the Way You Think About Food
4/25 “Health Halo” Effect
4/28 Hummus, the New Nutrient Rich Spread

I am the only nerd out there that is so interested in food psychology.  Speaking of nerding out I have to highlight this post I did two ago about chocolate milk, Banning Chocolate Milk Doesn’t Have Outcomes Parents Hope For.  This new study was pretty interesting and I had a fabulous time reading it while sipping on some coffee in Cantabria with my laptop that’s so old it sounds like a small vacuum when the fan runs.


Hummus, the New Nutrient Rich Spread

No one knows for sure how far back the history of hummus goes, but traces of chickpea, the key ingredient, have turned up in Middle Eastern archeological sites dating to 7,500 B.C.  Made from the few ingredients of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), olive oil, lemon juice and salt hummus is a delectable, creamy, irresistibly tasty spread. Seasonings are added to taste and can be used to make different varieties like roasted pepper, roasted garlic, or stick with traditional and sprinkle some cumin on top.  The making of this dish is quite simple.  All the ingredients are simply ground down until they form a smooth paste.  These key ingredients come together beautifully and create a snack that is chock-full of nutrients that are linked to many health benefits.

Hummus-21-640x480Hummus is a great sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, iron, and fiber.  Beyond the nutritious benefits hummus is very satiating as well as rich in protein which helps you fight hunger cravings.  “Food satiety” is the scientific term used to describe our satisfaction with food—how full it leaves us feeling, and how effective it is in eliminating our sense of hunger and appetite.  Hummus can lower your risk of heart disease because it supports healthy cholesterol and blood pressure.  These nutrients also contribute to better regulation of blood sugar.

In a recent study, “two groups of participants received about 28 grams of fiber per day. But the two groups were very different in terms of their food sources for fiber. One group received dietary fiber primarily from garbanzo beans. The other group obtained dietary fiber from entirely different sources. The garbanzo bean group had better blood fat regulation, including lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.”

The base of hummus is garbanzo beans.  Known by many names garbanzo beans are also commonly called chickpeas.  The name “chickpea” can be traced back through the French chiche, Latin for ‘chickpea’.  When found in the grocery store the name chickpeas and garbanzo beans are interchangeable, elsewhere there is subtle differences between the two.  The beans found in grocery stores are usually cream-colored and relatively round, known at the “kabuli-type”.  These beans come in many variety’s.  World wide the most common type of garbanzo been is the “desi-type” which is smaller, irregularly shaped, and varies in color.

Hummus’ popularity is on the rise because Americans are seeking more “healthy” snacks.  The sales of these types of spreads have gone up to $530 million in 2012, a 11 percent increase from a year earlier and a 25 percent jump over 2010, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc.  Grocery isles have been filling up with many different brands of pre-made hummus.  Since this dish is so simply to make I highly suggest making it at home, which will also be more cost effective and you won’t have to worry about preservatives.

“Health Halo” Effect

As rates of overweight and obese Americans have reached record-levels, advertising claims have become more common on the fronts of food packaging, creating concerns that they may lead consumers to see foods as healthier than they really are (Brownell & Horgen, 2004; Nestle, 2002; Pomeranz, 2001). The effects of marketing can be significant because nutrition claims made on packaging can create “health halos” that make foods appear healthier than they are, leading to higher consumption yet lower perceived calorie intake. It is important to understand that influence of nutrition claims (e.g. “low fat”, “high fiber”) on health-related judgments and decisions.   The effects of health claims on packaging is seen in a study done by Wansink and Chandon (2006) found that labeling both “healthy” and “unhealthy” food as “low fat” reduced calorie estimation by 20%-25%, and increased what was considered to be the “appropriate serving size” by 20%.

Chandon and Wansink introduced the “health halo” effect in 2007, referring to the findings that people tend to underestimate the calorie content of foods in restaurants where food choices are advertised as healthy, compared to restaurants that do not advertise a health image. One healthy attribute leads consumers to assume that foods offer other healthy but unclaimed attributes. Health claims on a product can produce a “halo effect” where consumers reported beneficial effects from the product beyond those specifically mentioned in the claim.  This shows that the way consumers are processing the information they seeing on packages is far more complex than them simply processing it, they use their own beliefs and ideas and therefor interpret the information in a different way than it may be presented. For instance many consumers may mistakenly think that low fat equates to low calorie.

The mere presence of a low-fat claim has been shown to lead to underestimation of calories and greater consumption (Wansink and Chandon 2006). In a study products with a half-the-fat claim and half-the-calorie claim 22 percent of the participants made a positive “health halo” inference and thought the product was “healthy” or “good for you.” Though the study found that the products that claimed to be “better-for-you” tended to be “healthier”. But this is not to say that “healthier” is synonymous with “healthy”.

“Labeling snacks as low fat increases food intake during a single consumption occasion by up to 50%. This is robust across both hedonic utilitarian snacks, across young and old consumers across self-reported nutrition experts and novices, in public and private consumption, and regardless of whether people serve themselves or not” Wansink and Chandon 2006.

Studies by Wanskin and Chandon 2006 suggested that low-fat nutrition claims increase consumption because they increase perception of the appropriate serving size and reduce anticipate consumption guilt. “Health halos influence consumption because people feel that they can eat more of healthy food, or can eat more unhealthy (but tasty) food after eating healthy food without suffering any adverse health consequences” (Ramanathan and Williams 2007).

The effect that marketing can have on consumers purchasing habits is shown in Kellogg’s decision to market its first health claim. In 1984, Kellogg worked with the National Cancer Institute to endorse a health claim for All-Bran cereal, within six months the products market share increased by 47%.   Kozup, Cyer, and Burton (2003) showed that “when a heart-healthy claim is on the package or menu, consumers generally judge the product to reduce the likelihood of heart disease or stroke, but favorable nutrition information lead to more positive attitudes toward the product, nutrition, and purchase intentions.” When unfavorable nutrition information is available, the heart-healthy claim has no influence on either the evaluations or disease risk perception.

This overall pattern results suggests that consumers may be somewhat wary of health claims and prefer instead to trust the information contained on the Nutrition Facts panel when it is available. Favorable nutrition information on Nutrition Facts panels have even stronger effects than health claims on product attitude and purchase intentions. Never the less, results showed that there were positive effects of the inclusion of a heart-healthy claim on a package or menu.

Marketers Use Words to Influce the Way You Think About Food

“[At] no point in US history have food products displayed so many symbols and statements proclaiming nutrition and health benefits.” The marketing that companies use on the front of their products in order to sell their goods is important because it reaches consumers at time of purchase and consumption. The amount of new food products, in 2000, that were marked “reduced/low fat”, 2,076 out of 16,890, had peaked at this time. There is a growing concern about nutrition and consumers wanting nutritional information on labels and they want more health food items conveniently available to them, found Nestle and Ludwig.

In the past years, marketers have become increasingly likely to make heavy use of nutrition claim (including “low fat”), health claims, and vague unregulated claims or health sales (“smart choice” or “good for you”). The words that marketers use to explain products can have a profound effect on consumer’s perceived nutrition of the food. There is a rise in the amount of foods claiming to be “better-than-you” because “the message that a food or food component is naturally and intrinsically healthy is one of the most appealing to consumers in all cultures” (Stone 2009).

Almost 70 percent of American adults age 20 or over the a were identified as overweight or obese.  What makes obesity so relevant in this century?  High body mass index (BMI) among children and adolescents has become and continues to be a major public health concern in the United States because it is the source of so many health issues. Children with high BMI often become obese adults, and obese adults are at risk for many chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.  The key issue is that the majority of these diseases are preventable.  But when people chose their food items, nutrition ranks last in a survey of the drivers of food choices, after taste, cost, and convenience.

This social issue trend can be traced all the way back to the grocery store and restaurants.  When one walks down a grocery isle they are bombarded with a variety of products claiming to be healthy for them, whole grain, low-fat, low cholesterol, sugar free, fiber rich, the claims are endless.  The decision to purchase processed food products differs from other purchasing decision. This is due to the fact that a health claim present of the front of packaging is typically encounter before nutrition information, which is usually present on the back or side panes, is processed.

Even when consumers are aware of the persuasive intent behind various marketing communication tools, they may not realize that their consumption decisions are being influenced, Chandon, Pierre, and Wansink (2012).

The effects that health claims can have on their perception of a food item can be shown just by the name of the food. The name of the food has a strong influence on how consumers’ expectations of how tasty, filling, or fattening the food will be, which are often uncorrelated with reality. For example, a study showed that branding the same food as a “salad special” versus “pasts special” or as “fruit chews” versus “and chews” increased dieters perceptions of the healthfulness or tastiness of the food as well as its actual consumption. Although, the name changes had no impact on non-dieters. This same effect of wording can be seen in again in that food is perceived to be leaner and higher quality when labeled “75% fat-free” than “25% fat.”

The effect of key words on packaging happens as well in other products who have health claims that do not specifically claim to be low-fat. Andrews, Netermeyer, and Burton (1998) show that consumers falsely infer that foods low in cholesterol are low in fat. Similarly, there is anecdotal evidence that some consumers erroneously believe that low-fat nutrition claim indicate fewer calories (National Institutes of Health 2004).

The effects of marketing can be significant because nutrition claims made on packaging can create “health halos” that make foods appear healthier than they are, leading to higher consumption yet lower perceived calorie intake. It is important to understand that influence of nutrition claims (e.g. “low fat”, “high fiber”) on health-related judgments and decisions.

Chandon and Wansink introduced the “health halo” effect in 2007, referring to the findings that people tend to underestimate the calorie content of foods in restaurants where food choices are advertised as healthy, compared to restaurants that do not advertise a health image. One healthy attribute leads consumers to assume that foods offer other healthy but unclaimed attributes. Health claims on a product can produce a “halo effect” where consumers reported beneficial effects from the product beyond those specifically mentioned in the claim.

The Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) establish criteria by which nutrient and health claims can be made on food packaging. Although health claims have been used on package labels since 1984, they have been criticized as vague, trivial, or misleading (Silvergald 1996). Although foods that are sold for immediate consumption, such as in restaurants, on airplanes, and from vending machines, are not covered by all aspects of NLEA.

Processed Foods Through the Years

Packaged, pre-made food products have not always been as abundant as they are today.  The history of processed food has been directly affected by important moments of America’s history.  Industrialization provided food processors the capability to mass produce, mass market, and standardize.  This movement innovated the way meals were produced and gave way to the creation of processed, preserved, canned, and packaged a wide variety of foods.

Initially there were a few processed foods available in the early 1900’s like Oreo Celebrates 90th BirthdayOreos and Aunt Jemima syrup.  Cereal was one of the first widely marketed “health foods”.  In its original form the first cereal was made with a grain like wheat or rice and was similar to a corn flake with no added sugars.  One of the major driving forces for ready-to-cook foods was war time.  In conjunction with World War I canned and frozen foods became popular.  Shortly thereafter processed foods began to take over the nations diet.  Spam gained popularity because it was a perfect item to feed troops.  More than 100 million pounds of SPAM luncheon meat are shipped abroad to feed allied troops during World War II.  After World War II there was an increase in the supply of processed food items, therefore marketers needed to make a demand.  Military research had brought about many new “convenience foods” like dehydrated juice and cake mix.

These new ways of preparing food was advertised to women as a means of liberating them from the kitchen, saving them timetang-picture and giving them freedom to get out of the kitchen.  By the 1960’s televisions and microwaves become popular and were found in many American homes.  Products like Swanson TV dinners started to emerge alongside the rise of fast food restaurants.  The amount of food dollars that were spent outside of the home rose sharply in the 1970s when more women joined the work force.

The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) required that all packaged foods include standard nutrition labeling information.  The 1990’s also saw the mass consumption of caloric sweeteners.

The increasing amounts of meals that Americans ate from fast food restaurants and premade meals wreaked havoc on their waistlines.  As response to this manufactures came out with new formulated products that were “low-fat,” “fat-free” and diet.  The creation of low fat product lines was more about getting consumers to keep buying products and less about their health.  Fat content was reduced by removing high-fat ingredients but the products still needed to taste good so artificial flavors and sweeteners were added in order to counterbalance the change as well as preservatives to extend shelve0901_010402 lives.

The amount of new food products, in 2000, that were marked “reduced/low fat” was 2,076 out of 16,890.  Which had been a peak at the time.  In the past years, marketers have become increasingly likely to make heavy use of nutrition claims (including “low fat”), health claims, and vague unregulated claims or health sales (“smart choice” or “good for you”).

In 2007 the recession had caused many people to begin to cook more foods at home and eat out less often.  There is a growing concern about nutrition.  About 80% of meals were prepared at home in November 2013, about the same as 2012, NPD data show. The percentage of meals prepared at home has risen steadily from 77.4% in 2008 at the beginning of the recession.  Consumers want more health food items conveniently available to them.  Popular movements such as the organic movement have caused consumers to question how and what our food is made of.

As an outcome of these movements “processed food” has become synonymous with unhealthy.  But processed foods should not holistically be seen as bad.  Products that are canned, frozen, or pasteurized can be very health.  By freezing vegetables farmers are able to harvest them at their peak and we can have a consistent supply of fresh vegetables.  There are also products that need to be processed for human consumption like oatmeal and coco-beans.


Studio Tours

  • I was first drawn to Katie’s project because I felt like I could gain knowledge from her posts.  Many people have disabilities and I know that I have a lack of understanding about many disabilities when they should be something I am more aware.  Blogs are a great space to share knowledge and Katie used her blog well to do that.  Katie pointed out that every 1 in 4 people has a mental illness, so it safe to assume that we all know someone with one.  With so many people living with mental illnesses it would be good for society to be more aware and understanding of how mental illnesses affect those who have one as others.  I really like the additional media that she adds like images and videos.  By talking about the disability and the sharing the story of well known celebrity Katie is able to relate to the reader and emphasizes her point that disabilities don’t need to hold people back.


  • Movies play a role in society they are frequently apart of our lives.  Personally I love learning about new things. Jennifers project interested me because I would like to know more about movies like the score, types of shots, and so on.  Her blog has many topics that cover everything movie related including actors, directors, movie reviews, animation and more.  I like the informative way in which she writes.  The blog itself is very engaging and easy to navigate.  Overall I enjoy Jennifer’s blog and find the topics that she writes about to be quite interesting.


  • For Ambers project on alternative fashion it seems fitting that shes uses a wiki since the content is informative and describes the various types of fashions and this also allows others to contribute.  Her page is to be used as a source of information and I think she executes this well. I had seen the style lolita before and never had really thought much about it besides it being a Japanese style.  It was cool learning about why people started doing it and how others use it her in America.  Fashion is such an integral part of how we express ourselves, by learning about where trends came from and what they mean to the people that take part in them we can learn more about that person.  Amber’s wiki page was very well put together and I enjoyed the videos she used.


The Components of a Healthy Salad and What to Avoid

We classify food as either healthy or unhealthy and salad has always been known as healthy.  When eating out or grabbing a quick lunch pre-made salads appear to be a healthy option.  Be sure to selective when ordering a salad.  Quite often the nutrtion content of salads end out being approximately the same as a burger alternative.  The goal of the restaurant is to make tasty food that you will order again, so they added on indulgent ingredients like fatty dressings, cheese, and croutons.  In order to make a salad a well rounded meal one usually adds protein, when restaurants do this they usually add crispy chicken which quickly adds calories.

A  2012 study, which found that although fast food menus grew between 1996 and 2010 to include 53 percent more dishes and snacks, the average number of calories in each item hadn’t changed.

“Entree salads, which are increasing in number, can be bad, too. With fried chicken on top and regular dressing, they can have more calories than a burger,” lead researcher Katherine Bauer, an assistant professor in the department of public health at Temple University, told HealthDay at the time of the study’s release.

Salads can be very nutritious depending on how you build yours.  In order to get the most out of your meal there are some few ingredients you should be sure to add, and others to stay away from.  First off get the most out of the base of your salad by choosing a good dark green.  There are many options out there that provide far more nutrients than watery ice berg like kale, spinach and romaine.  One can never have too many veggies, well technically maybe they could but it would be really hard, broccoli, peppers, carrots, peas, cucumbers and many more are great additions.  Raw veggies are great because they are low in calories, high in nutrients and water content.  Since their calories are so low you can pile them on sky high.  Protein is a must not matter the source.  Options vary from lean meat like chicken, hard boiled eggs, beans, or tofu.  Get an extra bonus of omega-3s from tuna or salmon.  Please try to resists the bacon bits.  Healthy fats are also great in salads.  Go for some toasted walnuts, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds or a bit of avocado.  Finally there is the dressing, this is usually what makes or breaks a healthy salad.  Vinaigrette are a great option, or something with an oil base.  In order to have control over how much dressing you add try to order dressing on the side at restaurants so you can keep an eye on how much you use.

Breakfast wars

Taco Bell has gone all-out advertising their new breakfast line up.  They have been working on its morning menu of, waffle tacos for over seven years.  The shots between McDonalds and Taco Bell have been dubbed the ‘Breakfast War’.

Advertisements of Taco Bell have been specifically aimed at McDonald’s.  One video was about a many who had been eating the Egg Muffin since 1984.  Another ad showed 25  men from across the country named “Ronald McDonald” who say they “love Taco bell’s new breakfast”.

In response to Taco Bells attacks the golden arches posted this photo and offered free small cups of McCafe coffee to customers during breakfast hours for two weeks.  One of them says, “Nothing beats the original #FirstMeal” attached with a picture of an Egg McMuffin, McCafe coffee and hash brown from McDonald’s.  This new advertisement, titled Get With The Times, features a man singing about how dull and dated McDonald’s breakfast is to the tune of “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.”


McDonald’s gets about 20 percent of its sales from breakfast. It made $10 billion last year off their morning menu alone, dwarfing Taco Bell’s $7.6 billion in total sales for all menus combined.

“Traffic during the breakfast [hours] have been steadily increasing, while traffic during the lunch and dinner hours have been steadily decreasing year over year, and that’s why there’s this sudden interest in breakfast.” said Haley Peterson, a retail reporter for Business Insider.

Banning Chocolate Milk Doesn’t Have Outcomes Parents Hope For

71805_webA simple way to cut calories and sugar is to watch what you’re drinking.  The increasing numbers of children with obesity is causing much concern and there is a eager search for a solution.  Concerned parents and teachers of the PTA turned to banning chocolate milk to lower their children’s sugar intake. As a sample test 11 elementary schools in Oregon banned flavored milk (strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, herby referred to as chocolate milk).  Research released by Cornell University this week was conducted in-order to understand the potential impact of removing chocolate milk has on milk sales and intake, which concluded that removing chocolate milk from schools had a ill affect on children’s meals.

Schools have done this before.  In 2011, Los Angeles Unified School District removed flavored milk from its schools in order to battle youth obesity.  It is known that this may not be a successful way to combat childhood obesity.  In 2012 after the US Department of Agriculture updated school meal standards, the National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jerry Kozak cited other research that showed milk consumption can drop 35 percent when flavored milk options are removed.

“When schools ban chocolate milk, we found it usually backfires. On average, milk sales drop by 10 percent, 29 percent of white milk gets thrown out, and participation in the school lunch program may also decrease,” reports Andrew Hanks, lead author and research associate Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This is probably not what parents wanted to see.”Chocolatemilk1

Though it was shown in sales data that students did substitute chocolate milk for plain milk, they also wasted an average on 40.9% of milk they selected.  Students were forced to chose another drink option by eliminating the availability of chocolate milk, but this did not encourage them to drink it.  Cornell’s findings suggests that eliminating chocolate milk can increase total milk waste by 29.4%

Children, and adults alike, do not choose foods because they are nutritionally good for them, they choose foods that taste good.  Of the students who purchase lunches served as part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), two-thirds choose chocolate over white milk.

These results are from a pilot test and further research must be done, but it does provide us with some insight of what some of the unforeseen affects are of getting rid of flavored milk in schools.  This information needs to be considered when deciding whether the amount of sugar children consume with flavored milk is validated because of the nutrients that milk offers.  The study authors suggest taking other tactics to encourage white milk over chocolate, rather than an outright ban.

Weekly Review

I felt very good about the project two weeks about, but last week was kinda tough.  I was determined to post four times, which I did so that’s a win.  For some odd reason last week was just off for me.  I pushed through by posting drafts so that I was always posting things, and then go back to them to later and expand the post.  What gave me the most trouble this week was that I just couldn’t sit and write.  Additionally I didn’t feel invested in the topics I was writing about which probably was the source of my issues.  What I would do differently would be work on the post in shorter segments of time, and give myself time to reflect on what I’ve written before adding more to it and posting.  Post this past week include:

4/8 Chipotle Focuses on Promoting High Quality of Fast Food
4/10 Microwaving Food
4/13 What Benefits does Organic Food Offer?
4/13 The Many Forms of a Oat