How food labels can influence the perception of flavor
What people think they’re eating can impact the taste of the food, according to a recent study.
People were given the same Gouda cheese, but the cheese was labeled as light, reduced salt or regular, according to the study. Researchers found that people didn’t like the light cheese as much as the regular cheese, and they thought the reduced salt cheese did in fact taste less salty, but it was equally tasty as the regular cheese.
“What we think about a specific food as well as our attitude about the importance of nutrition in general impacts how we perceive the taste of that food,” says Rosemary Mueller, registered dietitian with Advocate Weight Management at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “This can range anywhere from ‘revolting/food aversive’ to ‘delicious/special treat.’ How we think about food is also affected by our food memories, or prior exposures to foods.”
In the study, published in the journal Nutrition, researchers noted that the findings could impact the way companies package their food.
“These labels could influence the sensory expectations and perception of related sensory attributes like fat content and salt content,” researchers said. “Therefore, specific health-related labels might be used as a marketing tool in order to target specific health oriented consumers and even yield potential for priming healthy food products.”
For people trying to make the switch from less healthy foods to healthier options, Mueller says mindfulness is crucial.
“It’s important to learn and hone the skill of mindfulness, where we learn to eat more slowly,” she says. “To be mindful, sit down when you eat and eat slowly, paying attention to the taste, texture and feel of foods, as well as your own increasing level of satiety.”
In addition, she says to try to be open to new healthy foods – maybe a new variety of fruits, vegetables or nuts, a new lean protein choice, or a different type of fiber-containing whole grains and a source of healthy fat.
“Remember, how we think is powerful – so think ‘positively’ about eating well,” Mueller says.
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