Woman leaning over to look at her dates menu
Diet & Nutrition

Menus Trick You Into Choosing Unhealthy Items

After analyzing 217 menus and the selections of over 300 diners, Cornell Food and Brand Lab study published in July 2014 in the International Journal of Hospitality Management showed that any food item that attracts attention with bold, hightlighted or colored font or set apart in a text box makes people more likely to order it. Unfortunately, according to a release from Cornell, lead author Brian Wansink, author of , said, “In most cases, these are the least healthy items on the menu.”

Second, menu names with descriptive items sell better and lead you to believe that they taste better. The researchers cite a study in which they changed the names of restaurant menu items to make them more descriptive; the seafood filet became Succulent Italian Seafood Filet and red beans and rice became Cajun Red Beans and Rice. Sales of these items went up by 28% and they were rated as tastier, even though the recipe was identical. Diners were also willing to pay an average of 12% more money for a menu item with a descriptive name.

The best solution to healthier restaurant dining may be an easy one. “Just ask your server,” says Wansink, “Ask ‘What are your two or three lighter entrées that get the most compliments?’ or ‘What’s the best thing on the menu if a person wants a light dinner?’”

Wansink and co-author Katie Love point out that restaurants could also use these two tactics to guide diners to buy healthier items.

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