Say Farewell to Food Bias

Featured Article, Healthy Living, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on January 19, 2012

To accomplish your weightloss goals, it's important to first get your head in the game. Being mindful of these common food biases is a great place to start.


Stereotyping Bias: We often classify foods as either vices or virtues and base choices solely on those stereotypes instead of nutritional value and calorie content.  

Healthy hint: Not all healthy food is low in calories.


Balancing Bias: We mistakenly balance the intake of healthy and unhealthy foods, believing that we can cut calories simply by adding a healthy option.

Healthy hint: Add up—do not average—caloric intake.


Unit Bias: We often think of food in terms of units, meals and events and ignore the actual quantity consumed.

Healthy hint: Quantity of food consumed—how much we eat—is often more important that what we eat


Framing Bias: We are easily influenced by the context in which we evaluate our meals. The same meal can appear more or less healthy depending on the other available options.

Healthy hint:  Consider each item by itself.


Comparison Bias: Our choices are swayed by comparisons; we think of the best available option as a good choice, even when it is not.

Healthy hint: Focus on merits of food, not on how much healthier it appears than the alternatives.


Consistency Bias: Our consumption behavior is inconsistent with our long-term weight-loss goals. 

Healthy hint: Eat until you’re about 70 percent full.


Priority Bias: We give priority to other goals—saving money and time, seeking social approval and managing stress—while shortchanging our weightloss goals.  

Healthy hint: Stay the course by controlling mindless habits. Think long-term; over the long run, small changes produce big results. And select actionable goals, fortifying your commitment to them by writing them down and sharing them.


Alexander Chernev is an associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.  He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Sofia University and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Duke University. He is the author of The Dieter’s Paradox: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and