Food Labels

Does Food Label Use Motivate Dietary Quality?

Why Would it Motivate Me?
July 10, 2020
6 minute read

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends to reduce the intake of solid fats such as saturated and trans fats, and added sugars. While to increase fiber, and micronutrients like Vitamin D (Miller et al., 2015).


According to the article "Relationships among Food Label Use, Motivation, and Dietary Quality", tests both an objective and subjective test on their experiment research (Miller et al., 2015).. The subjective is a self reported test opposed to the objective test where it is a mock shopping  task shown in a wide screen monitor. The test used a stratified cluster sampling of 358 participants who excluded individuals with stroke, lack of fluency in English, neurogenerative disease, head trauma, people that never or rarely buy groceries. The participants ages ranged from 20-78 years old and a mean age of 49.9 (Miller et al., 2015).


The objective test consisted of users navigating in a mock shopping task where products were presented side by side in a wide screen monitor (Miller et al., 2015). Overall two products were presented in pairs of 24, these two products where cereals and frozen foods that had front of packaging (FOP) label. The NFP recently introduced nutrition facts in front of packaging to allow consumers to view this details easier (Miller et al., 2015).

The cereal showed calories, sat fat, sodium, sugars, fiber and vitamin d per serving size in the front. While the frozen dinners displayed calories, fat and fiber in the front (Miller et al., 2015). In addition to the second nutrition food label placed behind or on the side of the food product. Their eye movements were monitored using eye-tracking methodology, when they picked up the food product. The participants would click on their preference and which product they were to choose (Miller et al., 2015).

The self reported test was introduced to see if overlaps with the objective test. It consisted of questions that would ask people about eating and nutrition labels.  


Participants spent 18.6% in viewing the FOPs. Dietary quality was positively associated with both tests by: sex, BMI, and education (Miller et al., 2015). However, income was not. Dietary quality increased with age, higher education and women reported better quality dietary. Participants with higher BMI reported worse dietary quality. Motivation was then examined between the tests. People might be operationalizing their nutrition goals when reading the labels. In change of changing their diet or commitment to following the labels (Miller et al., 2015).


Other studies that have used an objective study are rare. With this study and previous ones, food labels are in fact related to dietary quality (Miller et al., 2015). Those participants who paid attention to the FOP are more likely to have a healthier diet. Self reporting has a stronger motivational element, compared to a test requiring attention from from food labels. The reason is because they might be considering to changing their diets (Miller et al., 2015).

Takeaway, UX Research  

Governmental Regulations in the United States should show FOPs better (Miller et al., 2015). For example, for foods with high saturated fats should be displayed in front of the packaging. Foods with high sodium should also be on the FOP. Foods with high total sugars should be FOP. Foods with vitamin d and potassium should be FOP, etc.

Motivation can definitely be an influencer when doing surveys on participants reading nutrition labels. The way the labels are presented or questions can effect the answers of participants. As a UX researcher it is important to be careful on how the survey questions will be presented to participants. It is critical to minimize motivation influences if you want to get more accurate results. For example not displaying nutrition facts directly to participants before surveying them (Miller et al., 2015). This avoids external factors that participants can utilize that can alter your results.


Miller, L.M.S., Cassady, D.L., Applegate, E.A., Beckett, LA., Wilson, M.D., Gibson, T.N.,Ellwood, K. (2015) Relationships among Food Label Use, Motivation, and Dietary Quality.

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