A person can’t go a day without food and if you are a fellow New Yorker, you know that everyone’s on a time crunch, even during lunch. While browsing a store’s food selection, you’ll probably lean towards the easy-to-go trail mix, which is considered healthy and of course, pricey. But are you really choosing the healthier option or the more expensive one?

New research has found that people believe healthy food should be more expensive. Consumers have created a relationship between the cost of an item and its true health benefits. This thinking can be flawed because there is no supportive evidence that backs up the idea that costly food is healthier. Despite this, marketers are taking advantage by playing off of this mindset and it goes far beyond our stomachs.

In a study conducted on people’s eye health, individuals responded differently to their diagnosis depending on what their doctor recommended. If a person was told about an unfamiliar expensive food ingredient that could protect their vision, the issue would be taken more seriously. But if a person was told about a cheap, ordinary ingredient, then their visual health wouldn’t be prioritized. In other words, carrots are underrated.

Professor Rebecca Reczek from Ohio State University teamed up with other fellow educators, Kelly Haws and Kevin Sample, to study how people perceive the relationship between food and cost. There were five related studies done with different participants. People were tested on their pricing of food depending on information given to them as well as how food pricing influenced people’s choices.

“It’s concerning. The findings suggest that price of food alone can impact our perceptions of what is healthy and even what health issues we should be concerned about,” Professor Reczek said, about the new findings published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In one particular study, a person was given two identical crackers. When researchers told the individual that one cracker cost more, they automatically thought it was healthier than the other identical cracker. Another study focused on ordering lunch for other people. Individuals were given the same two options, the chicken balsamic wrap and the roasted chicken wrap.

It’s important to note that researchers randomized the cost of the wraps for each participant.Although the ingredients were listed for both, participants were more likely to choose the more expensive chicken wrap. This study showed that people have a strong mindset of believing expensive food was healthier.

“People don’t just believe that healthy means more expensive,” Reczek said. “They’re making choices based on that belief.”

Beliefs can be strong but so is your willpower. The next time you’re staring at a menu or a store’s food selection, stop and really consider what you’re paying for. It doesn’t hurt to think about being gentle to your wallet instead of your overall health.

 

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