The semantics of dieting can easily lead to dieting faux pas

ordering a salad on the menuYou sit down to order at a cafe. You’re currently “ON DIET”, your status necessitates that you choose very wisely. To be safe you turn to the section labelled salads. Glance through the options and make your choice.


You may not be acting as virtuously as you think.

When a salad is not a salad

Traditionally the term salad, referred to a collection of vegetables and herbs, that had been cut up and seasoned, and were served raw.

These days, restaurant salads can include a variety of less traditional ingredients including :

  • Pasta
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Bread

That “pasta salad” would sit quite comfortably in the Pasta Section of the menu. But in the pasta section, you would have given it a miss. The restaurateur knew this, so he added a lettuce leaf, jacked up the price and stuck the dish in the salad section.

not quite a saladDieters being duped

Research reported in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that dieters were frequently conned by terminology.

The team were able to demonstrate the phenomenon on a group of dieters in the lab. They whipped up dish which was composed of a mixture of vegetables, pasta, salami, and cheese, served on a bed of fresh romaine lettuce for their participants.

The dish was served to dieters and non-dieters as either as “a salad” or “a pasta”.

The dieters perceived the meal to be less healthy, when it was called “a pasta”. Those individuals not dieting, were unconcerned about the health connotations of the meal and failed to make the “healthful” link.

Dieter beware of conditioning

Why are dieters, who are supposedly more attuned to healthy foods, likely to be confused by these labels?


The dieter is programmed to classify foods into one of two broad categories. “Good” and “bad”.

The non-dieter on the other hand, is more focused on things being “good to eat”.

Exploiting the dieters’ fixation

The world is out to sabotage your diet. Okay, that might be a bit over the top, but the food industry is in business to make profits. They only make profit when you buy.

The food industry is aware that food terms can become tainted in the dieters head. They know the dieter is on the lookout for specific terms, so they change the terms.

By removing the offensive term, the food item moves from the “bad” category to the “good”. Katching, katching – money in the cash register.

And an extra layer of fat on your hips !

It is all in the name

So what “other” products are masquerading as “healthful”, when their true healthfulness is subject to debate.

  • Potatoe chips are “veggie chips”
  • Milkshakes are “smoothies’
  • Sugary drinks are “flavoured water”
  • Candy chews are “fruit” chews

The word “organic” elevates foods to healthful in a flash. And small packages are typically considered more worthy than large.

Study the list of ingredients

So if you’re ON DIET and considering popping something into your mouth. STOP. Don’t assume anything – read the list of ingredients, then decide whether to tuck in or skip out.

The Impact of Product Name on Dieters’ and Non-Dieters’ Food Evaluations and Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research (2011)38(2):390-405.  Caglar Irmak, Beth Vallen, and Stefanie Rosen Robinson.

Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those extra fat layers ?

Subcribe to E-spoons, to get e-mail updates once a month to learn how to keep your body chemistry balanced so you can burn off the extra fat.

NOTE : Privacy & spam policy. Spoonful of Science will not rent, trade or sell the e-mail list to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the unsubscribe link.

Know someone who will find this post useful ? Share it on facebook, linkedin, twitter

Further reading

brain learning about calories  fat sippy cup drinking juice brain counting the calories
 Eating diet foods causes children to flunk out of calorie school Juicing up is fattening up Sucralose may taste good on the tongue but it doesn’t quite cut it in the brain

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids rein in insulin dial down stress sleep vitamin D microflora think
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

Hire Dr Sandy from a Spoonful of Science to be the keynote speaker at your next event.

Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

This entry was posted in dieting and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>