People are more likely to choose healthy food if it’s presented amongst unhealthy snack options, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science.
The study offered participants two food baskets – one containing two unhealthy options, such as a bar of chocolate and a packet of biscuits, or one containing a healthy and unhealthy food, such as a bar of chocolate and a carrot.
Participants were told that they would receive just one item from the basket they chose, but that they would not know which item they would get.
The researchers tracked where participants were looking during the experiment and found that the healthy option stood out more among the unhealthy options, with participants unconsciously looking at it more.
Lead author, Dr Nicolette Sullivan, commented: “It’s counter-intuitive, but putting a healthy option - fruit in the chocolate aisle for example - may make it stand out more and make us more likely to choose it.”
“Equally, keeping a fruit basket separate from the unhealthy goodies this Christmas is probably not going to help either! Our work suggests that adding some healthier options to your dessert spread may make them stand out and make them easier to choose,” she added.