Variety Salience and Enjoyment of Repetitiously Consumed Foods: a Field Experiment

Abstract

Background

The formation of healthy eating habits is supported by repeatedly eating specific foods, but repetition can also reduce enjoyment of those foods. Making the variety in one’s diet salient increases enjoyment of repetitiously consumed foods in a lab setting. Therefore, in a longitudinal field experiment, we tested a brief intervention to remind participants of the variety in their diet. We hypothesized that increasing salience of dietary variety would prevent declines in enjoyment of the food and increase the likelihood that participants would be willing to eat the food again later.

Method

Participants (n = 139) ate a granola bar each day for 2 weeks. Before eating it, participants randomly assigned to the treatment condition recalled other recently consumed foods (to increase salience of dietary variety). Control subjects recalled variety in an unrelated domain (music). Participants reported their enjoyment of the granola bar after they ate it each day, and in a lab session after the study ended, the number of granola bars they took from a selection of snacks was counted.

Results

Self-reported feelings of enjoyment declined steadily, and contrary to our first hypothesis, increasing salience of dietary variety did not prevent this decline. Increasing salience of dietary variety did increase the likelihood that participants would choose to take the same kind of granola bar 2 weeks later.

Conclusion

Brief exercises that make variety in one’s diet more salient may not prevent reductions in enjoyment of a repetitiously consumed food, but may still support continued consumption of the food.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Samantha Cinnick and Lucy Zhou for managing the study.

Open Science

All materials and data are available anonymized at: https://osf.io/vh6ub/?view_only=7d3f6b914fa0486cbbaa12ae05626be1

Funding

This research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Award #NNX12AE56G to ZV, JPR, and TM.

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Correspondence to Traci Mann.

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Lenne, R.L., Mann, T., Burns, R.J. et al. Variety Salience and Enjoyment of Repetitiously Consumed Foods: a Field Experiment. Int.J. Behav. Med. 28, 286–291 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-020-09916-2

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Keywords

  • Variety salience
  • Eating
  • Enjoyment
  • Longitudinal
  • Intervention