How Do We Make Food Decisions? Seductive Nutrition

We hear about “Mindless Eating” often, and I speak about it often during my health and nutrition presentations. I was so glad to find out about Dr. Wansink, an expert in the psychology of food. In his book, “Mindless Eating, Dr. Wansink explores and trys to understand how small changes in people’s everyday food decisions can make a positive difference on their health. He is supportive of Unilever Food Solutions’ “Seductive Nutrition” approach.

What is “Seductive Nutrition”? Dr. Wansink states, “It can speak to the holistic dining experience. Nice dinnerware, soft lighting and a matching tablecloth can help enhance a person’s dining expectations and is something to keep in mind for your next dinner party.” In his research, he found people rated the taste of a brownie much higher when it was served on a nice dinner plate than on a cheap plastic plate. Look how this broccolini  looks more luscious in this photo (above). See health benefits of broccolini and the recipe for Broccolini with Pumpkin Seeds. Dr Wansink now wants to help industry professionals (bloggers, recipe developers, restaurant operators) and their dining patrons learn how quick, easy meal changes – whether dining in a restaurant or at home – can make positive impact on how people eat, and therefore how they live. The group at Unilever Food Solutions recently hosted a “select group of chefs and restaurant operators at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone (CIA) to highlight their efforts to help people choose delicious, slightly healthier meals when they eat out through “Seductive Nutrition.” Developed by Unilever Food Solutions after the release of a global World Menu Report, “Seductive Nutrition” nudges guests to choose top menu items made slightly healthier through small changes to ingredients and preparation methods, with more enticing menu descriptions.” For example, my recipe for Checkboard Tuna Sandwich is more enticing by its name and its presentation.

Here are a few tips from he suggests on how to seduce diners or readers into making the healthier meal choices:

  • Research from his Cornell Food and Brand Lab, and his book show that we eat first with our eyes and imagination, and then with our stomachs. If we think something is going to taste good, it also tends to.  Knowing this tendency, “Seductive Nutrition” may help make the healthiest of foods not only appear – but also taste – indulgent to your customers.
  • Simple, yet descriptive, words on a menu board can help lead customers to select healthier menu items. Using words like creamy, hot, or spicy on a menu board have been shown to help increase food sales in restaurants by up to 28 percent; and, in his studies, he found it led people to view restaurants as more “trendy and up-to-date.” It’s an easy change to make.  For example, including descriptive adjectives can turn your everyday mashed potatoes into “creamy, whipped mashed potatoes,” and a yogurt parfait into a “silken yogurt parfait.”
  • Incorporating vivid adjectives can trigger people’s meal expectations. In his analysis of more than 1,000 descriptively-named menu items, he found three key ways for foods to be “seductively” named:
  • 1. Geographic Labels: Use words to create an image or illicit the ideology of a geographic area that diners can associate with foods. Examples include Southwestern Tex-Mex Salad; homegrown Iowa Pork Chops; “Real” Carolina Barbeque Sauce; or Country Peach Tart.
  • 2. Nostalgic Labels: Alluding to your customers’ past can trigger happy associations of family, tradition, national origin and a sense of wholesomeness. Use these fond associations to create appealing names, like Old-World Italian Manicotti; Grandma’s Best Banana Cream Pie; or Green Gables Matzo Ball Soup.
  • 3. Sensory Labels: Describing the taste, smell and texture of menu items served can help set customer dining expectations. Dessert chefs accomplish this masterfully; example menu names include Velvet Chocolate Mousse; Silky-Smooth Pumpkin Pie; or Warm Apple Crisp. Sensory labels apply to all meal courses, such as Hearty, Sizzling Steaks; Snappy-fresh Seasonal Carrots; or Garlic butter-infused Chicken Kiev.

For more information on Unilever Food Solutions, the “Seductive Nutrition” approach to menu development and the “Seductive Nutrition” Challenge, please visit www.unileverfoodsolutions.us.


Disclosure: I received compensation for this post as part of a sponsored opportunity from the Mom It Forward blogger network for Unilever Food Solutions. All ideas, images and opinions are my own.

 

9 thoughts on “How Do We Make Food Decisions? Seductive Nutrition”

  1. Interesting! As a diabetic, I can no longer afford to be mindless about my eating but it can’t hurt to be even more MINDFUL and make every experience a worthy one.

  2. Great post! I cook for myself and my husband every single night, but by the time the meal is ready I get lazy and slap it on any plate and sit at the table without even placemats. If you spend an hour cooking up something healthy and delicious, you certainly can afford a few extra minutes to present the food nicely to complete the experience. I will be mindful from now on!

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