Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

27 May 2015 - Eurekalert - 'Do' is better than 'don't' when it comes to eating better

Focus on the Broccoli Benefits rather than the Hamburger Harms

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

Please see the underpinning research here: 

Wansink and Pope, 2014 - When do gain-framed health messages work better than fear appeals?

Tell your child or spouse what they can eat and not what they can't. Telling your child to eat an apple so they stay healthy will work better than telling them not to eat the cookie because it will make them fat. A new Cornell discovery shows that "Don't" messages don't work for most of us.

These new findings cast a dim light on the many public health campaigns that have used a fear approach to convince us to eat better, such as telling us: don't eat candy or drink chocolate milk, or eat red meat because of harmful consequences. The Cornell study findings show that focusing on Do is better than on Don't. That is, stressing the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods.

The researchers analyzed 43 published international studies that involved either negative or positive nutrition messages. They found that while negative messages tended to work best with experts - like dietitians and physicians -who were highly involved and knowledgeable in the area, most people who did not know a lot about nutrition would rather be told what they should eat and why it is good for them.