That granola bar you bring with you to the gym — is it healthy? How about whole milk? That has to be unhealthy, right? Ask yourself a few of these questions and then stop for a moment. How many of your answers are based on hard data and how many are based on gut feelings?
The New York Times must have sensed this confusion, because they set out to do some hard research. By interviewing hundreds of nutritionist and a representative sample of the American people, they started to uncover some interesting things about the perception of foods.
While many people understand processed foods tend to be bad, beyond that, it gets complicated. Let’s take a look:
“We’re healthy, right?”
Sorry, beautiful campers, nutritionists don’t think so. While granola and granola bars generally have a positive health connotation, nutritionists do not view them that way. In the case of granola, only 47 percent of nutritionists think it’s healthy, while 80 percent of the American public does.
In the case of granola bars, 28 percent of nutritionists think they’re healthy, compared to 71 percent of the public. Pretty big perception gap.
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Yes, that’s right, it would appear as though years of marketers positioning fro yo as healthier than ice cream has given people the perception that it’s healthy — period.
This understanding led to a pretty massive gap in survey results, with only 47 percent of nutritionists dubbing the dessert healthy, compared to a whopping 80 percent of the American public. Wishful thinking, perhaps? Plus, look at how happy that little guy looks. It can’t be that bad, can it?
The results didn’t look this way for all foods (the public thinking a food was healthier than the nutritionists thought it was). Sometimes it was the other way around.
In the case of sushi, 75 percent of nutritionists rated it as healthy, compared to only 49 percent of the general public. Why could that be? It’s a bit unclear, but one possible explanation is that sushi hasn’t permeated American culture as fully as many other foods. The people who aren’t familiar with it aren’t as likely to endorse it.
That’s right, this study wasn’t just a mountain of examples of nutritionists disagreeing with everyone else. There were plenty of times in which they had similar viewpoints. In the case of cheddar cheese, 57 percent of nutritionists rated it as healthy, compared to 56 percent of the public.
Steak scored 60 percent and 63 percent among nutritionists and the American public, respectively. And whole milk wound up getting a 63 percent thumbs up from nutritionists and a 59 percent approval rate from the public.
So, next time you’re thinking about buying some food or preparing food for later, and you think something is healthy or unhealthy, take a moment to question that belief. You might discover you’re right, but then again, it could be an unfounded gut feeling.