Can We Really Trust That Healthy Foods Taste As Good?

Healthy foods have a serious inferiority complex. That smell is the aroma of insecurity. Recall how much effort their ads spend to persuade us that foods lacking certain ingredients (that wouldn’t be so bad for most people if they’d eat them a bit less often) actually taste good. They beg us to believe that such foods are just as tasty as their original and more desirable counterparts. How well does that work?

It’s like the “healthy” parts of healthy foods are an afterthought; less important than whether they taste enough like the regulars to make us eat or drink them. Does the huge focus on flavor intend to overcome the not-so-hidden message that “it still tastes good, even though it’s missing some things we know you like”?

They overdo it, though, like that guy you know who begins statements of opinion with “to be honest…” as if “to be dishonest” was a choice he consciously opted against, that time. I’d be happier with reduced-fat Oreos had Nabisco just said

“They’re the Oreos you already like, but with less fat, even though fat tastes like something. They soften just as quickly in milk; you won’t even notice the difference.”

There. How hard was that? Instead, it’s an eyeful or earful of how the taste is the same, but very little about why healthier Oreos matter.

It’s nearly as bad as when someone repeats her credentials to you at every opportunity to convince you she really has them. Remember Demi Moore’s and Tom Cruise’s date scene in A Few Good Men?

“But I have two medals and two letters of commendation.”
“Why are you always giving me your résumé?”
“I want you to think I’m good.”
“I do.”
“No, you don’t.”

Maybe healthy foods know that fat-and-calorie-rich foods have an unhealthy upper-hand. How often did Hostess tell us that Twinkies taste good? Almost never. They just showed pictures, and described Twinkies as “golden sponge cake with creamy filling,” and left us to figure out that that combination is delicious (it worked).

(I know, I know. You’re thinking “But what about KFC describing their original recipe chicken being made with eleven herbs and spices? That’s bragging about taste.” Maybe, but I’m sure the Colonel knew that no one can really taste all eleven herbs and spices. It was just a short-hand way to say “Hey, we put a lot more effort into making these than just frying then like the competitors we’ve put out of business.”*

Who, with such a sophisticated palate, would eat at KFC, anyway? Let’s be honest).

*Pssst. It’s okay if you didn’t read any of that. I skipped it, too.

That must be where Apple got it’s original iPad strategy. They spent next-to-nothing persuading us that we needed an oversized iPod touch with no Flash support and no camera. All they did was about its features, and then let the early-adopters, tech geek bloggers, and gadget journalists decide what made-up need it filled–besides the need to be first to have everything. It worked.

Reduced-fat, fat-free, reduced-calorie, low-carb, sodium-free substitutes have more work to do.


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16 responses

  1. So true!

    We don’t need anything to convince us to eat fat and sugar… we know it tastes good!

    So, when, on a product, it says “Tasty” or “Delicious”, it looks like it’s trying to convince itself about the good taste…

    1. My label on a healthy food would be “well it looks the same, doesn’t it?!” There.

  2. Tackling the debate of “I’m good for you-feel better about serving me to your kids”
    Duh, Lucky Charms still has 19 grams of sugar per serving. Whole grain healthy, my ass.

    1. Ha, yeah. They know no one eats Lucky Charms because it’s got whole grain. C’mon, now.

  3. So true! Every time a low fat product says tasty on the cover, I wonder if it really is!

    1. I can’t decide whether it would be better to be honest and admit that it tastes different, or just not talk about taste at all. What think you?

  4. I learn about this everyday. You have to be a label reader, it doesn’t matter what the box says to get you hooked.

    1. The less it says, the better. Do I want golden sponge cake with cream filling? YES. Do I want reduced-anything? NOT REALLY. It’s bad presentation. They should skip the taste part, and just say “It’s got 33% less fat, but it’s still chocolate ice cream.”

  5. This whole problem could have been avoided if the original items were made a little better anyway. But then again, they probably would have found a way to get rid of more saturated fat and calories, and still tried to convince us it “tastes the same.”
    Look at I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!
    Seriously?! That name is ridiculous and trying to convince everyone that it tastes like butter. But if you’re NOT butter, then…what are you? o_O

    1. I wonder what other names they turned down to go with that one. Hm.

  6. If it says “lower fat” it’s always going to taste different. And probably have more sugar and who knows what else. I’ve always found it interesting when people have an extra helping because it’s “low fat”

  7. I’ll eat anything no matter what it says on the box.

    As long as it’s cake. Haha!

  8. Hmmmmm…. when I read words like “reduced-fat” I don’t think healthier and I don’t think tasty. I think reduced fat.

    If I want healthy I eat REAL food (ie- food where the ingredients were not created in a lab!) and lets be honest, it is pretty darn tasty just the way it is! 🙂

  9. designlessthts | Reply

    I eat low fat sweets!! Some are gross though. oh, and PS: I deactivated twitter and facebook. so email me or check my blog to chat with me 😀

    1. AND NOW YOU’RE BACK.

      1. designlessthts

        YAY FOR TWITTER. Still no facebook. I’m not going back to that at least until the end of the semester…if I even go back to that.

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