I’m browsing through one of my favorite blogs (when I really should be doing homework) and come across an article on Nestle plan to bring us “Nutrition, Health, and Wellness”. I’m intrigued at how a chocolate company plans to do that. I scroll down until a line catches my eye:
“How about a memory enhancing Kit Kat bar or Nescafé that fights hypertension?”
I blink a few times and read over it again. Maybe a memory enhancing Kit Kat bar is awhiles off. But how about a memory enhancing piece of fish? Or a piece of fruit that fights hypertension? Or–get this–a heart-enhancing, obesity-reducing, metabolism-boosting, muscle-building fruit and nut bar?
Wait a second, let me go grab one from my shelf.
The point here is that nowadays a lot of attention is paid to the negative effects of eating unhealthily. We get assaulted from every end with warnings of obesity and cardiovascular disease that it all starts to bounce off of us at some point, at which time we throw our hands up and exclaim “EVERYTHING CAUSES CANCER!” and then go munch on a candy bar to relieve the stress. But not nearly as much attention has been paid to the health-enhancing effects of healthy eating. Brug (2008) notes that some of the most effective ways to motivate people to eat healthy are an image of oneself as “healthy”, combined with the belief that changing one’s food choices can improve one’s health.
Sticking health-promoting labels on products is effective in getting people to choose those products. (In fact, “diet” and “low-fat” labels have been so effective that people actually end up consuming too much and gaining weight.) It’s not unreasonable to consider the opportunity costs of making an unhealthy choice–you not only damage your health direct, but you miss out on the opportunity to eat something beneficial to your health.
Healthy choices are all around us already (sorry Nestle, what you’re trying to do is admirable too). But to change people’s behavior, maybe we need a different approach than the doom-and-gloom attacks on unhealthy foods we’ve been engaging in. A vision-enhancing, bone-boosting bag of carrot sticks, anyone?