We all know that to be healthy we should eat the right amount of fruit and vegetables and that we should enjoy a variety of foods, and that a little bit of everything is good and a lot of any single food is bad. We have all heard these sayings and recommendations and, without realising it, they and other related health recommendations do influence how we buy food and eat it.
However, we may have these recommendations and beliefs in the back of our minds when we purchase and eat, but it is our perceptions that decide for us. The thing about perception is it is individual, but can be influenced by media, what we hear and what we see, as well as how and where we were brought up.
There are some foods out there that people perceive to be good for them when compared to others in that group, and we are just wrong. A really good example is vegetable chips. Potato chips are generally fried to get the crispiness and then the flavour is added. With vegetable chips the process is much the same, but because they are vegetables and sold in the health food section of the supermarket, the general perception is that they are better for us.
Muffins are a wonderful treat and many believe that they are better for you that many other related foods. The truth is that they are basically just small cakes and the blueberries and other fruit makes little difference. It is just perception and the reality is that the really big muffins can increase your calorie intake for the day by around 600 calories.
We now know that having regular probiotic bacteria in our diet is good for us and there are now many foods that will help us achieve this. However the perception that frozen yoghurt will always do this is not necessarily so, as some of the bacteria added to some of these products will not even survive the freezing, so have no benefit to us.
These are just three examples of foods that have the “halo effect” and because of our perceptions make us think that they are always healthy and better for us.
There is a very true saying that “we eat with our eyes” and this is what helps develop our perception. When I was a university studying taste panels as part of my Food Technology degree, we ran a session using vension. It was sliced exactly the same size and was cooked identically, however when put under a blue light, it was found to be unacceptable compared to standard room lighting. The panellists were eating with their eyes and allowing their perceptions to decide on the quality of the food.
When we are preparing or serving food for customers we absolutely need to consider perception in our work. A single hair in a food will stop that customer, and at least 10 people they know, from ever eating at your place or your food ever again. It may have been an accident or even have blown in from outside, or even be the customer’s own hair, but it was in your food and the perception is now that your place is dirty, regardless of how good your food safety is.
See, perception is everything
This article has been written by Rachelle Williams – The Green Food Safety Coach