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Consumers’ practical understanding of healthy food choices: a fake food experiment

  • Sonja Mötteli (a1), Carmen Keller (a1), Michael Siegrist (a1), Jana Barbey (a1) and Tamara Bucher (a2)...
Abstract

Little is known about laypeople’s practical understanding of a healthy diet, although this is important to successfully promote healthy eating. The present study is the first to experimentally examine how consumers define healthy and balanced food choices for an entire day compared with normal choices and compared with dietary guidelines. We used an extensive fake food buffet (FFB) with 179 foods commonly consumed in the Swiss diet. The FFB is a validated method to investigate food choice behaviour in a well-controlled laboratory setting. People from the general population in Switzerland (n 187; 51·9 % females), aged between 18 and 65 years, were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. In the control group, the participants were instructed to serve themselves foods they would eat on a normal day, whereas in the ‘healthy’ group they were instructed to choose foods representing a healthy diet. Participants chose significantly more healthy foods, with 4·5 g more dietary fibre, 2 % more protein and 2 % less SFA in the ‘healthy’ group compared with the control group. However, in both experimental conditions, participants served themselves foods containing twice as much sugar and salt than recommended by dietary guidelines. The results suggest that laypeople lack knowledge about the recommended portion sizes and the amounts of critical nutrients in processed food, which has important implications for communicating dietary guidelines. Furthermore, the energy of the food served was substantially correlated with the energy needs of the participants, demonstrating the potential of the fake food buffet method.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: S. Mötteli, email sonja.moetteli@hest.ethz.ch
References
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British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
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