Food Labels: The Healthy Halo


Ever walked into a supermarket to see shelves upon shelves of different foods, all available in different brands or varieties? I’m sure at some point you have been standing there trying to figure out what to choose.

Why is there such a big price difference? Is the more expensive one better quality? It says ‘organic’ does that mean it’s healthier? Which flavour?

So many questions! But what is really determining our decision?

That clever marketing trap. That pretty packaging that looks oh-so-healthy. It’s fat free, organic AND it’s in the healthy isle of the supermarket.

Don’t be fooled by the ‘healthy halo’ effect. Here are some of the phrases we commonly fall for:

  • Fat free
  • Gluten free
  • Organic
  • Fair Trade
  • Natural
  • 75% less saturated fat*
  • Superfood
  • No artificial colours or flavours
  • Less fat*
  • Source of fibre
  • Baked not fried
  • Less than 1% added sugar
  • No added sugar
  • Real fruit
  • Cholesterol free
  • And the list goes on…

We’re likely to make conclusions based on what we see. Anything packaged in green can immediately draw us towards it because it can represent “healthy” and “natural.” We associate green as “good” and “go” unlike red where we may think of “bad”  “stop” or “danger.” These attractive health halo words can also generally make us think that they’re healthier, better for us or have fewer calories/kilojoules. But are they?

This health halo effect can actually make us eat more of the foods we think are “healthy.”

The food supply is forever expanding, which makes it difficult for us to choose which foods are best. The key to choosing foods is to check the nutrition information panel which is generally at the back of the packet. Better yet, choose foods that aren’t in packaging at all!

Shop fruit and vege

Be sure to check out our post on how to read a nutrition label with tips on what to look out for so that you don’t fall for the marketing trap!

Questions? E-mail us at


Sundar, A., F. R. Kardes. 2015. The role of perceived variability and the health halo effect in nutritional inference and consumption. Psychology & Marketing 32(5): 512-521 (accessed 28 June 2015).


One thought on “Food Labels: The Healthy Halo

  1. Pingback: Fab 5 breakfast cereals for diabetes! | The Food Edition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s