Mind Tricks: Food Tastes Better When We Work for It

Ever wonder why the restaurant across town or a meal that takes all day to prepare tastes better? According to a scientific study, the mind favors food that requires more effort to obtain. After putting in work for a snack, you are more likely to enjoy it, even if it has the dreaded distinction of being “healthy.”

There is an expectation that if something demands more effort, it must be better – just ask anyone who regularly works overtime in order to afford a fancy new car. Scientists set out to discover whether this notion applied to food as well by conducting an experiment with rats. Indeed, when a low-calorie snack was made more difficult for the rats to obtain than a sweeter one, they still put forth the extra effort to eat the healthier one. Moreover, this preference continued later when both choices were equally easy to access. Although in other circumstances the higher-calorie food would be regarded as tastier, the once-difficult-to-come-by snack became the preferred selection, presumably because they considered it to be more of a treat.

While it will probably be difficult for you to trick yourself into losing your sweet tooth, the study may be useful news for parents. Instead of rewarding young kids with a cookie, try fruit or a low-calorie snack – they’ll probably consider it delicious even without much sugar because you’ve deemed it a treat. You could also try growing your own vegetables. After months of tending to your garden, there’s no way your mind will consider your produce anything but appetizing – you’ve worked too hard for it not to!

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