Caloric estimation of healthy and unhealthy foods in normal-weight, overweight and obese participants

Derek Larkin, Colin Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
197 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals make dietary choices each time they consume food or drink, and assign labels to each item, such as un/healthy, high/low in calories, high/low in nutrients. These labels are thought to be snap judgments based on prior, and often limited nutritional knowledge. The aim of this study was to examine the perception of the caloric content of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods. Participants (N=141) rated 53 food images on perceived healthiness/un-healthiness alongside the caloric content. Participants were subdivided into three groups: BMI (normal-weight, overweight, obese). Findings suggest that weight status impacts on participant's caloric estimation of foods perceived as healthy, but only marginally for unhealthy foods. However, not all foods were consistently labeled as healthy or unhealthy, on these occasions weight salience appears not to have influenced estimations of caloric content. Foods that confound the dichotomous labeling of healthy or unhealthy appear to gain a ‘branding’ that confers either greater or fewer calories than they actually contain, on these occasions weight salience does not appear to influence the labeling; implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-96
Number of pages6
JournalEating Behaviors
Early online date25 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Food
  • Obesity
  • Calories estimation
  • Food Perception
  • Food Labels
  • Food perception
  • Food labels


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