Size Portions Matter When Trying to Eat Healthier Foods


Size portion may matter more than eliminating not-so-good-for-you foods when trying to convince your brain to eat healthier, according to a recent report.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that people who are struggling to eat healthy should focus on lowering the portion of the "vice" foods and correspondingly raising the portion of a healthy food to replace it.

"We suggest a simple ... solution that can help consumers who would otherwise choose vice over virtue to simultaneously increase consumption of healthy foods (virtues) and decrease consumption of unhealthy foods (vices) while still fulfilling taste goals -- 'vice-virtue bundles,'" Kelly L. Haws, associate professor of management at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management, said in a statement.

In a series of experiments, Haws and her colleagues found that people have a "taste-health balance point" -- a proportion of vice and virtuous foods that make up one serving -- which they find satisfactory. For most, the perfect vice-virtue bundle is made up of a small (1/4) to medium (1/2) portion of vice. So if a vice-virtue bundle was made up of fries and slices of apple, it might take a small or very small serving of fries to satiate the need for the vice food.

Haws said the vice-virtue bundle could also be the answer for many in the food service industry who are actively seeking out healthy food options that consumers will voluntarily choose.

"Given that consumers consistently find vice-virtue bundles to be attractive, managers should consider adding vice-virtue bundles to their product lines," Haws said. "For restaurants and food vendors that already offer pure vice and virtue options, vice -virtue bundles provide an opportunity for product line expansion through existing items rather than through development of completely new offerings."

Haws' research interests are related to consumer behavior, with a focus on issues relevant to consumer welfare, specifically with respect to food/health and financial decision making.

The report can be found online at:

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