AirTalk for September 27, 2013

Are fast food giants banking on sneaky "healthy halo" effect with new diet options?

McDonalds Offers Real Life Choices Diet In New York City

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Are healthier options at Fast Food Restaurants a good thing?

McDonald’s has announced that it would no longer market junk food to kids and it’s going to include more fruits and vegetables in on its adult menu. The move came after another fast food joint, Burger King, rolled out the lower-calorie French fries it has dubbed “Satisfries.” Apparently, they are 20% healthier but “taste the same.”

The fast food industry has been under pressure to do their part in the fight against obesity. But what Burger King and McDonald’s doing might have the opposite effect, if a much-cited study is to be believed. In a research paper published in 2009, a team of researchers found that the inclusion of healthier choices on  a menu has a way of causing people to choose items that are worse for them.

In other words, if both veggie burgers and bacon-cheeseburgers are on the menu, consumers typically go for the latter thing. The academics called the phenomenon “vicarious goal fulfillment.”

Dr. Peter Ubel, physician and behavioral scientist who specializes in healthy policy and economics; Professor of Business Administration and Medicine & Professor of Public Policy, Duke University

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