The Food Marketing Ploys that are Making You Pack on the Pounds

Posted: October 10, 2017 in Blog, Food, Myths, Weight Gain
Food marketing ploys and weight gain

How come the food you get on your plate in a restaurant never looks nearly as inviting and appetizing as the images of the same food you see on the menu or in advertisements?

It turns out there are a few reasons for the phenomenon, and they’re not all shady marketing ploys. As any Instagrammer will tell you, it’s very difficult to take a good-looking picture of even a very attractive presentation of food.

So companies like McDonald’s go to great lengths to take pictures of their food that meet the mental image that consumers have, versus the actual look of the food in the package. (They promise that the Big Mac you see in the pictures is exactly the same in content as the Big Mac you get in the restaurant, but, like a fashion model, it’s ‘made-up’ for the camera).

In any case, that appetizing presentation of food in advertising images is just one simple example of how the marketing of food makes you eat more and can make you gain weight.

But it’s perhaps not the worst. Many of the in-restaurant marketing ploys that restaurants use may be far more damaging than any pretty picture of food. Most of us know that anything we see in an ad, whether it’s for food or automobiles, is presented in its best way.

But the in-restaurant marketing tactics often come across as adding value to your meal purchase, but they’re actually just ways to sell you more food. Food that you didn’t set out to order, but that you end up eating anyway.

Here are just a few examples of how in-restaurant marketing ploys can get you eat far more food than you intended; and far more than you should.

1. ‘Value-Added’ Combos

Value added combos

A staple of most fast-food restaurant menus, the ‘value-added’ combo is named in a way that makes you feel like you’re doing yourself a favour. But instead of saving you money, they end up increasing your calorie intake by 50% or more.

When you order an assorted cold cuts sandwich from Mr. Sub, you’re often asked is you’d like to make it a combo. Yes, you can save a buck or two by ordering everything together, but if that’s what you wanted when you went in, that’s what you would have ordered. So you’re not really saving anything, but getting almost twice the calories versus the sandwich alone.

2. Prix-Fixe Menu


Popular in restaurants during promotions like ‘Summerlicious’ in Toronto, prix-fixe menus offer multi-course meals for a fixed price. It’s a great way to sample ‘diverse and innovative cuisine’. But it’s also a great way to eat more than you want. To take advantage of the tempting cost savings, you’d have to eat an appetizer, main course and dessert. If you’ve managed to get in the habit of skipping dessert as a way to reduce your weight, then your new habit is going to have a setback.

3. Happy Hour

Happy hour and weight gain

Sure, when you were younger, happy hour felt like the best deal going. But it could be one of the worst restaurant promotions for your weight.

Alcohol delivers a nasty one-two punch to your will power. First, alcohol has been shown to increase your appetite. When you drink, you want to eat more. Second, alcohol lowers your inhibitions. So not only do you want to eat more, but you have less resistance against doing so. (And there’s actually a third punch that might deliver the knockout. Most alcohol beverages are high in sugar and simple carbs, so they’re not exactly ‘slimming’.)

If you manage to eat a balanced nutritious diet and have your weight in check, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally taking advantage of restaurant marketing offers. But, for everyone, it’s important to see them for what they are and to know that they are not quite the ‘deal’ that they can make themselves out to be.

If you’d like to learn about more ways to help keep your eating and nutrition on track for weight loss, call or visit your nearest Herbal One Centre for a no-charge one-on-one consultation.