A new study illustrates that scare tactics are ineffective when it comes to changing people’s eating behavior. The University of Adelaide in Australia found that unrelenting warnings about “bad” food don’t impact consumers’ choices, leading researchers to conclude that “promoting ‘healthy’ fast food consumption might be the best option to adopt.” Sound familiar? It should. Decades of research supports the notion that encouraging healthful choices is the most effective way to influence eating habits. In fact, earlier this year the nation’s 67,000 registered dietitians agreed, formally announcing that (figurative) carrots, not sticks, are the way to go.
But it doesn’t take a consensus of nutritionists for most Americans to realize that bureaucrats and activists have no place disparaging their dinner choices. In an Associated Press feature on likable food scientist, Brian Wansink, the newly-appointed executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, summed up this common-sense approach to diet, health, and personal responsibility: “So much of the answer lies not in counting calories, not in legislating, but in the middle range of what we can do by changing some of our own habits.”