Journal Articles

Turnwald, B.P., Horii, R.I., Markus, H.R., Crum, A.J. (forthcoming, 2022). Psychosocial context and food healthiness in top-grossing American films. Health Psychology. | OSF data and code

Question: Which contexts, character behaviors, and character demographics are associated with healthy foods in Hollywood films?

What we learned: We analyzed over 9,000 food depictions from 244 top-grossing Hollywood movies from the past 25 years. Foods were less healthy when they were depicted in American vs. foreign settings, part of social consumption situations and celebrations, in the foreground vs. background. The foods that characters actually consumed and evaluated positively (vs. negatively) were also less healthy.

Why it matters: Top-grossing Hollywood movies depict healthy foods as less American, less social, and less appealing for characters to eat or say positive things about. Research is needed to understand whether such depictions decrease the appeal of healthy foods among viewers.

Turnwald, B.P., Perry, M.A., Jurgens, D., Prabhakaran, V., Jurafsky, D., Markus, H.R., Crum, A.J. (2022). Language in popular American culture constructs the meaning of healthy and unhealthy eating: Narratives of craveability, excitement, and social connection in movies, television shows, social media, recipes, and food reviews. Appetite, 172, 105949. | OSF data

Question: Do we use different language to communicate with one another about healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods in popular media and social media?

What we learned: Healthy foods were described with fewer appealing descriptions (“couldn’t stop eating”) and more unappealing descriptions (“I hate peas”) than unhealthy foods in characters’ speech from the film and television industries. In communicating with one another on social media (recipe websites, Twitter, Yelp) about food, people described healthier foods as less craveworthy, less exciting, and less social than unhealthy foods. Machine learning methods generalized these patterns across 1.6 million tweets for a range of foods.

Why it matters: Strategies to encourage healthy choices must counteract a cultural tidal wave of pervasive narratives that dissociate healthy foods from craveability, excitement, and social connection in peoples’ everyday lives.

Turnwald, B.P., Anderson, K.G., Markus, H.R., & Crum, A.J. (2022). Nutritional analysis of foods and beverages posted in social media accounts of highly followed celebrities. JAMA Network Open, 5 (1), e2143087. | OSF data and code

Question: How healthy are the foods and beverages posted by the most followed global celebrities on Instagram?

What we learned: We analyzed 5,180 foods and beverages posted by 181 of the most followed athletes, music artists, and Hollywood stars on Instagram. We found that the average nutrition score of foods and beverages posted on 87% of celebrity Instagram accounts received a “less healthy” nutrition rating on the Nutrient Profile Index. Surprisingly, fewer than 5% of food- and beverage-containing posts were sponsored by food or beverage companies. Followers were more likely to “like” and comment on foods with the least healthy nutrition scores for foods, but not beverages.

Why it matters: Celebrities on social media represent a high-impact opportunity to promote healthy consumption if healthy foods are depicted as a more normative part of celebrities’ everyday lives to their millions of followers.

Boles, D.Z., Turnwald, B.P., Perry, M.A., & Crum, A.J. (2022). Emphasizing appeal over health promotes preference for nutritious foods in people of low socioeconomic status. Appetite, 172, 105945. | OSF data and code

Question: Is health-focused product advertising particularly aversive for people of low socioeconomic status?

What we learned: Promoting a fruit-and-vegetable smoothie as pleasurable (“Crave” ) instead of as healthy (“Nutralean”) increased expectations, consumption experiences, and healthy product choice among people of low socioeconomic status more than high socioeconomic status.

Why it matters: Emphasizing pleasure more than health in healthy product promotional materials may more effectively appeal to low SES groups, who experience disproportionately poorer dietary health.


Turnwald, B.P., Handley-Miner, I.J., Samuels, N.A., Markus, H.R., & Crum, A.J. (2021). Nutritional analysis of foods and beverages depicted in top-grossing US movies, 1994-2018. JAMA Internal Medicine, 181, 1-10. | OSF data and code

Question: How healthy are the foods and beverages in top-grossing American movies?

What we learned: Across 15,000 foods and beverages, the movie-depicted diet failed U.S. federal recommendations for saturated fat, fiber, and sodium, and featured 16% higher sugar content and 313% higher alcoholic content than Americans actually consume.

Why it matters: Depicting unhealthy foods and beverages in media is a sociocultural problem that extends beyond advertisements. Movies represent a high-impact opportunity to promote healthy consumption if producers expand the range of foods depicted.

Turnwald, B.P., Anderson, K.G., Jurafsky, D., & Crum, A.J. (2020). Five-star prices, appealing healthy item descriptions? Expensive restaurants’ descriptive menu language. Health Psychology, 39, 975-985. | Supplementary Material | OSF data and materials

Question: Do high status restaurants describe healthy foods with more appealing words than standard menu items? How does this compare to lower status restaurants?

What we learned: Across 160 expensive restaurant menus from 8 U.S. cities, vegetables and salads were described with fewer American, exciting, artisanal, tasty, and size words than standard items. However, unlike inexpensive restaurants, expensive restaurants did not use health-focused words (e.g., “nutritious”).

Why it matters: Describing healthy items with fewer appealing words than standard foods could lead customers to perceive healthy choices as less appealing. Differences in appealing words were more pronounced in lower status restaurants.

Turnwald, B.P., Bertoldo, J.D., Perry, M.A., Policastro, P., Timmons, M., Bosso, C., Connors, P., Valgenti, R.T., Pine, L., Challamel, G., Gardner, C.D., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Increasing vegetable intake by emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes: A randomized controlled multi-site intervention for taste-focused labeling. Psychological Science, 30, 1603-1615.
Supplementary Material | OSF data, preregistrations, code, and materials

Question: Does taste-focused labeling increase vegetable consumption in a multi-site replication experiment?

What we learned: Replicating our prior work, this large experiment showed that labeling vegetables as tasty and enjoyable, instead of as health-focused, increased vegetable intake by 29% across 138,000 diner decisions from 5 university dining halls. Followup studies tested mechanisms, moderators, and boundaries.

Why it matters: Changing healthy food labels to emphasize taste and enjoyment is a scalable, low-cost intervention to increase healthy eating.

Turnwald, B.P., Goyer, J.P., Boles, D.Z., Silder, A., Delp, S., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Learning one’s genetic risk changes physiology independent of actual genetic risk. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 48-56. | Supplementary Material | OSF data and open materials

Question: Does merely learning that you have a genetic risk change your thoughts, behaviors, and physiology in self-fulfilling ways?

What we learned: Whether participants learned that they had high-risk or protective versions of genes related to obesity, merely receiving that information changed their cardiorespiratory and gut peptide physiology, endurance, and perceived fullness in a self-fulfilling manner.

Why it matters: If conveying genetic risk information can alter actual risk, we must reconsider thresholds for when revealing genetic risk actually benefits health.

Turnwald, B.P., & Crum, A.J. (2019). Smart food policy for healthy food labeling: Leading with taste, not healthiness, to shift consumption and enjoyment of healthy foods. Preventive Medicine, 119, 7-13. | Supplementary Material | OSF data and open materials

Question: Does labeling vegetables as tasty and enjoyable harness principles of smart food policy?

What we learned: 4 field studies of over 4,000 diners showed that tailoring healthy food to peoples’ preferences increased the number of people choosing vegetables, sustained vegetarian lunch purchases over 2 months, and improved the experienced taste of vegetables compared with health-focused labels.

Why it matters: Labels that emphasize how tasty and enjoyable vegetables are harness multiple principles of smart food policy to increase choice and enjoyment of healthy foods.

Turnwald, B.P., Boles, D.Z., & Crum, A.J. (2017). Association between indulgent descriptions and vegetable consumption: Twisted carrots and dynamite beets. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177, 1216-18. | OSF data and open materials

Question: Does emphasizing taste and enjoyment increase vegetable choice more than emphasizing health qualities?

What we learned: Across 46 days and 28,000 diner decisions, emphasizing tasty and enjoyable attributes of vegetables increased vegetable choice by 25-41%.

Why it matters: This novel, low-cost intervention increases healthy choices and challenges existing approaches that primarily emphasize nutrition information.

Turnwald, B.P., Jurafsky, D., Conner, A., & Crum, A.J. (2017). Reading between the menu lines: are restaurants’ descriptions of “healthy” foods unappealing? Health Psychology, 36, 1034-1037. | Supplementary Material | OSF data and open materials.

Question: Are healthy foods described with appealing words at popular U.S. restaurants?

What we learned: Across 44,000 words, items in “healthy” menu sections were described with fewer tasty, exciting, fun, indulgent, and provocative words than items on the rest of the menu.

Why it matters: Describing the most nutritious menu options in less appealing terms may perpetuate beliefs that healthy foods are not flavorful or indulgent, and may undermine customers’ healthy choices.

Book Chapters

Turnwald, B.P., & Crum, A.J. (2020). The taste-focused labeling intervention. In G. M. Walton & A. J. Crum (Eds.). Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social-Psychological Insights Can Help Solve Problems, Guilford Press: New York.

What we learned: This chapter outlines the psychological theory, mechanisms, moderators, experimental results, and step-by-step toolkit resources for effectively implementing taste-focused labeling to increase healthy food choices.

Why it matters: This chapter allows anyone who makes decisions about what others eat to use taste-focused labeling as a means to improve healthy eating in real-world settings.


Bradley P. Turnwald
email: turnwaldbrad/at/gmail/dot/com

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