The power of visual displays of food on people’s food consumption decisons

By Panagiota Kaisari


New research published in Appetite provides evidence that when people are able to concretely visualize the quantity of sugar contained in sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), they view SSBs more negatively and show less preference for them.

For example, researchers found that participants rated SSBs as less attractive and reported diminished intentions to consume SSBs when SSB sugar-content information was presented concretely as an image of a sugar-cube pyramid versus abstractly, as grams of sugar (See Figure 2; as presented in the article).

Interestingly, researchers also found that without any educational intervention (1 sugar cube = 2.5 g), people struggled to convert sugar gramsthe type of sugar information that is traditionally presented on SSB nutrition labelsinto a concrete, physical sugar representation (sugar cubes). But, when people were provided ways  to convert abstract sugar-nutrition information into a concrete representation, they found SSBs less attractive and were less likely to select SSBs in favor of sugar-free beverage options.

As authors suggest these findings offer direct applications to the design of public-health messages and nutrition-education interventions.

To view the Full Article Click: Appetite 83 (2014) 10–18

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Figure 2. A (left) is an example of the SSB images that were displayed in the concrete-sugar-image condition; Image B is an example of the SSB images in the abstract-sugar-information condition; Image C is an example of the SSB images in the no-sugar-information ccondition

Take Home Message

– Have you ever really thought how many sugar cubes are the 65g of sugar that are contained in your favorite sugar-sweetened beverage?

– Why not the next time that you are ready to consume your favorite sugar-sweetened beverage or your Chocolate milkshake try to visualize the amount of sugar contained in it?

Hand writing Time to Plan concept with blue marker on transparent wipe board.

All you need to do it is:

1. Look at the Food Label and check the amount of sugar contained in the portion of food that you are ready to consume.

For example, if you visit the McDonald’s UK website and search for ”Chocolate Milkshake” you will have an option ”Ingredient and Allergen Information”

Then, do not forget to select between the options Medium or Large that refer to the choice you usually make for a Chocolate Milkshake.

Let’s assume that I choose a Large Chocolate Milkshake. I will be presented with a nutrition table that looks like this:

Click to enlarge


What can I understand from this table?  The energy of the Chocolate Milkshake is presented as kcal. So, I can see that this milkshake contains 390 calories and 67g of sugars (look at the table to see where can you find this information-the amount of sugar is highlighted). Given that 1 gram of sugar contains approximately 4 calories you can calculate that 67 x 4=268 calories (out of 390 total calories) contained in this milkshake come from sugar (!).

2. So, now that you know how much sugar is contained in the milkshake that you are ready to consume all you have to do is to use a kitchen scale and see how many teaspoons or sugar cubes are the 67g of sugar.

glass-full-of-sugar-cubes                    digital_kitchen_scales_main

Get Children Involved….

Children like activities and definitely they can understand very few by looking at the food labels and the grams of sugar that are contained in their favorite sugar-sweetened beverages, milkshakes or chocolate cookies. So, why not the next time that you are trying  to convenience your kid  not to drink another bottle of his favorite sugar-sweetened beverage or consume another pack of his favorite chocolate cookies bring him in the kitchen and help him calculate how many sugar cubes are contained in the food that he is ready to eat?


Nutrition education is really important when it comes to food choices and the engagement of children in nutrition education activities that have fun and require their active involvement can help children establish healthy eating behaviors at an early age.