"Visual information is much more important than numerical information when it comes to serving size," says Brand Lab.
Researchers from Cornell University as well as Brand Lab have done studies to shown that if you see a delicious looking cake on a cake mix box, you are likely to eat a few hundred calories more worth of cake when you do indeed consume it.
Brand told 72 undergrads to observe one of three cake boxes:
- One box looked exactly as it would on the grocery shelves — a slice with icing
- One box included a warning "frosting not included on the nutritional label"
- One included a picture of cake with no icing on it
When these undergrads served themselves some cake, those who examined the box showing cake with icing served themselves a bigger piece of cake than those who examined modified boxes.
"If you remove all the supplementary ingredients—or the icing in this case—it correlates exactly with what you should eat," Brand says. "People don't separate them. If they think cake, they don't think of cake without icing."
This research from Cornell shows how the power of images affect our unconscious eating behavior.
"This study made it more apparent that garnishes on the box make an impact," says Julie Andrews, a registered dietitian at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison. "Having a giant piece of cake with the frosting on the front is a way to sell the frosting, too. It's not helping people who want to eat better and who need a little assistance when it comes to nutrition."