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In Search of the Healthiest Dish on the Menu? Help Is On the Way.

chalkboard menu

You’re feeling hungry and hankering for some comfort food, so you slip into your local diner and scan the menu, looking for healthy options. You know they’re in there, hidden among the burgers and fries, shakes and floats, waffles and three-egg omelets loaded with cheese. A spinach salad? A fresh fruit plate? A low-cal veggie soup, not too heavy on the sodium? The trick is to find them.

Health-aware food marketing experts want to help, basically by using the things restaurants do to manipulate diners into ordering high-profit menu items for the greater good — or at least to boost our collective good health. In a study recently published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cornell University professor Brian Wansink (the man credited with the 100-calorie snack pack) and co-author Katie Love found that people eating in restaurants tend to order descriptively named menu items more frequently than those with bland names. Renaming “seafood fillet” something like “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet,” for example, boosted sales 28 percent.

What’s more, they concluded, items called out on the menu in bold, highlighted or colored font, or set off in a box, were also more likely to be …read more