Green Food Labels Make Nutrient Poor Foods Appear More Healthy

The traffic light colours on food packaging warning us of the nutrient contents of our food are in place to influence our decisions positively and cause us to opt for more nutrient-rich and health promoting foods.  However, the latest research shows that the colours used are so influential that using green labels on junk food can warp our perceptions of the nutrient value of the food because we associate the colour green with health and vitality.

Research suggests that the colour of calorie labels is more influential than the descriptive content on the back of the packet. The study from which this is taken tested participants view of the exact same bar of chocolate but one had the calorie per serving content in green and the other in red. Participants perceived the red labelled bar to be the least healthy, despite the fact that they were identical.

Colour psychology may affect our food choices and our appetites more than we think. Green is associated with nature and health, whereas red labelling is a popular colour choice for fast food chains and junk food packaging. This is because it is associated with increasing appetite and energy levels. However, in terms of red labels for nutrition, the colour red is associated with ‘stop/danger’ warning us of high salt, high saturated fat and high calorie foods.


Schuldt JP, Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Colour Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness, Health Communication, 2013.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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