How Food Labels Affect How Much We Eat

Upon entering a restaurant, most people will take into consideration which size they are hungry for; perhaps a double, or a large, maybe Jr., or medium-but does it matter?

Do we really get the smaller portion by ordering the smaller size? It turns out, it varies, NPRreports.

Marketing professor Aradhna Krishna, from the University of Michigan studied how people make their choices based off of labels, and how those labels dictate how much we eat.

Subjects in one experiment were given one of two cookies, either a medium or large. In actuality though, the cookies were the exact same size. When the cookies were labeled medium, subjects were more inclined to keep eating cookies despite eating the same as those with the large cookies.

“Just because there’s a different size label attached to the same actual quantity of food, people eat more. But also, [they] think they’ve not eaten as much,” Krishna said.

The consequences for a psychological principle relating to size can be great. For instance a large coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts is not the same as a Venti at Starbucks.

And for more perspective, a large soda today is six times the size it was 60 years ago, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

There is currently no standardized code for labeling the size of food or drinks. Krishna suggests having a standard for labeling sizes could be far more effective than the ban of 16 oz drinks in New York City:

“We’re not talking about restrictions in terms of freedom in any way. All I’m saying is that sizes should be made more uniform, and that will only help the consumer because you’ll know what you’re getting.”