Having the option to order a salad makes people more likely to order the double bacon cheeseburger or the least healthy item on the menu. And the more self control people have, the more likely they’ll be influenced to eat unhealthily, according to Psychology Today. There are often two competing goals when people order off the menu: The long-term aspiration of eating healthy, and the short-term desire to indulge yourself. Just looking at a healthy option on the menu can be enough to vicariously satisfy the healthy-eating goal, making people more likely to run for the indulgent foods.
According to the study in Psychology Today, “Twice as many subjects tended to choose the least healthy item when the choices included a healthy option, compared to when one was not available.”
The salads at fast food restaurants serve as a “denying the denier” item, according to Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He writes, “These healthier menu items hand the child who wants to eat fast food a sharp tool with which to chip away at his parents objections. ‘But Mom, you can get the salad…’” The new research from Psychology Today shows that “just because consumers say they want to see healthy foods on a menu doesn’t mean they will order them.”