An article by Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times reports that people who go to fast food places are even less likely to eat healthy if low caloric food is offered among the menu choices. McDonald’s, for example, is reporting that their salads account for a single digit percentage of their sales and are thus not all that profitable.
The article reads:
“When you put a healthy option up there on an otherwise unhealthy menu, not only do we not pick it, but its presence on the menu leads us to swing over and pick something that’s worse for us than we normally would,” Mr. Fitzsimons said.
Why? Mr. Fitzsimons called the phenomenon “vicarious goal fulfillment.” By seeing a healthy menu option at a restaurant, “it basically satisfies that goal to be healthy,” he said, and gives consumers leeway to order what they want.”
There are a few problems with that, in my opinion. First, does anybody really go to a place like McDonald’s expecting to have a healthy meal? Even health nuts walk through the golden arches knowing they’ll be slumming it for the afternoon. McDonald’s may have salad or chicken wraps, but the majority of customers eating there will take them with dressing, cheese, and crutons which means you’re basically screwed if you’re among the 2% that actually does get a salad. There’s a reason McDonald’s is so closely associated with the word “supersize”.
Second, I seriously doubt anyone is actually dumb enough to look at the menu and say “Hmm… there’s a salad on the menu, therefore the healthiest choice for me will be the fries”. People who put a Big Mac in their mouth know exactly what they’re doing.
Now maybe it’s just my high metabolism (and thus, my ability to get away with eating like an oink oink) talking, but I do love a bit of fatty food every now and then! However, this finding speaks a bigger problem: too many people prefer it on a regular basis. That is, at least in part, why Americans are not as healthy as their European counterparts.
Of course, people should be able to eat whatever they want, and we shouldn’t be in the business of banning junk foods as some politicians have suggested. What instead should be done is that we need to influence what people prefer to eat on a regular basis. When you eat a perfectly clean, paleo kind of diet for a long period of time, burgers and fries start to seem harsh, and you just can’t stomach them very often. A heavy tax on high fat foods with a subsequent subsidisation of organic foods would help encourage people to eat better on a regular basis, and it wouldn’t require a ban on anything.
And as per my last couple of articles, I’d hope the organic category would include the Durian (Which I have still not been able to find).