Tags: Health Topics | food | cues | sensory | beverages

Hungry, or Not? Thank Visual Cues

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By    |   Wednesday, 07 August 2019 04:48 PM

Visual Cues Impact Your Appetite. Counting Calories? Colors Matter

Have you ever suddenly developed an appetite from a passing glance at a freeway billboard featuring a brightly colored cheeseburger, or decided to step into a candy or ice cream store displaying a window full of vibrant shades and hues of sweet treats? If so, you are in good company. Unless we are medically restricted or diligently dieting, we are not likely to abstain from appetizing fare simply because we recognize the lack of nutritional value.

Beverages are showcased in the same fashion. As evidenced by that neon, tropical blue concoction prominently featured on the cover of the cocktail menu, bright colors are appealing and appetizing. Drab hues are not. When was the last time you got excited about a food that was grey? You probably eat oatmeal because you know it is good for you; not because you find it visually appealing.

Research corroborates the fact that when it comes to taste and sensation, colors matter. Devina Wadhera and Elizabeth D. Capaldi-Phillips in "A Review of Visual Cues Associated with Food" (from 2014) demonstrate how visual cues impacts eating behavior.

They recognize the impact of sensory cues on food consumption and enjoyment, and the potential they have to promote healthy eating behavior in both children and adults. In addition to taste, cues include odor, texture, flavor, and appearance — which is the initial food cue because our eyes provide our first contact with potential edibles.

Wadhera and Capaldi-Phillips cite prior research to provide some interesting examples of the visual impact of different color schemes on taste and food enjoyment. They note that pink food on a white plate was perceived as sweeter and more flavorful than the same food on a black plate, and hot chocolate in a red cup was rated as more enjoyable than when it was served in a white cup. Consider this the next time you are served a piece of birthday cake, or over the holidays when you are out enjoying warm beverages served in holiday themed mugs.

What about when you are thirsty? Wadhera and Capaldi-Phillips note that beverages served in blue glasses have been rated as more thirst quenching than when served in yellow, red, or green glasses. Apparently, we consume with more of our senses than we consciously realize.

So given the rainbow of colors swirling around us when faced with so many tantalizing food choices, is there any way to reign in our inclination to indulge? Interestingly, some research says yes.

Colors Impact Consumption

Oliver Genschow et al. (2012) demonstrated that when it comes to eating less, colors impact consumption. They specifically researched the effect of the color red, which they note has been shown to prompt avoidance motivation in other contexts. Within the context of eating, they found that people ate less pretzels when using a red plate, as opposed to white or blue, and drank less from a red cup than a blue cup. They suggest that the color red reduces food and beverage intake by functioning as a subconscious stop signal.

They note, however, that their study examined the impact of the color red as part of the environment, not as the color of the food or beverage consumed. And query whether a red plate full of peanut M n Ms would have produced the same results as the pretzels.

Colorful Meal Plans Seasoned With Sensibility

Instead of donning a pair of sunglasses to mute the appetizing hues of food cues, consider the value of discipline versus deprivation. Healthy eating involves intentional choices, not mindless responses to sensory stimuli.

And before you invest in a fleet of red tableware to trim down, remember that what goes onto those plates is much more important. A lovely slice of red velvet cake can fit onto a red plate as easily as a head of lettuce — albeit with drastically different sensory and nutritional value. And no doubt hot chocolate looks better in a red mug than herbal tea, although it probably tastes much better in a mug of any color.

The healthiest meal plan involves balancing color with cognition; visually pleasing food cues with portion control. The best strategy involves an appetizing but intentional mix of nutrition and moderation.

This article was first published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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The healthiest meal plan involves balancing color with cognition; visually pleasing food cues with portion control. The best strategy involves an appetizing but intentional mix of nutrition and moderation.
food, cues, sensory, beverages
Wednesday, 07 August 2019 04:48 PM
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