Ready-to-eat meals may increase food cravings, study finds

Credit: Eaters Collective /Unsplash.

What if the readiness-to-eat of a food item could influence our cravings?

A study from the University of Aberdeen has explored this question, shedding light on a key factor that might help make healthy foods more appealing and potentially reduce cravings for high-calorie snacks.

This discovery holds significant implications for healthy eating campaigns and the way we present food.

The Study

The research team, led by Dr. Constanze Hesse, showed more than 200 volunteers images of various foods in different stages of preparedness. The participants were then asked to rate their level of craving for each item.

The study aimed to understand how the readiness-to-eat of food impacts its appeal, considering items like fruits, vegetables, meats, and snacks.

The findings revealed that instantly edible foods were about 15% more appealing compared to those that require even minimal preparation, such as cooking, peeling, or unpacking.

This held true across a variety of food types, including healthy options like fruits and vegetables, and less nutritious choices like chocolate and crisps.

Insights into Human Behavior

Influence of Readiness-to-Eat

Whether it was a peeled orange versus an unpeeled one, or a closed bag of chips versus an open one, the study consistently found that people craved instant, ready-to-eat food more strongly.

This effect was more pronounced for raw versus cooked foods, followed by unpeeled or packaged compared to peeled or unpackaged foods, and finally between chopped and unchopped foods.

Impact on Cravings

The study also discovered that the level of hunger in individuals amplified the effect of readiness-to-eat on cravings.

While it is well-established that higher-calorie foods generally induce higher cravings, the added insight from this study is the heightened craving for instantly edible foods, irrespective of their calorie content.

Implications and Applications

Promotion of Healthy Eating

These findings can play a crucial role in framing healthy eating campaigns.

Presenting images of ready-to-eat healthy foods in promotional materials can make them more appealing, thereby potentially encouraging healthier food choices among the public.

This could be a step forward in the fight against obesity and lifestyle-related diseases, by promoting nutritious and balanced diets.

Learnings for the Fast-Food Industry

The fast-food industry seemingly already leverages the appeal of ready-to-eat foods.

Understanding and applying this knowledge can help in designing advertisements and promotional materials that highlight the readiness-to-eat aspect of healthier food options, possibly fostering better food habits among consumers.


The study by the University of Aberdeen opens up new avenues for promoting healthier food choices by leveraging the appeal of ready-to-eat foods.

This simple yet powerful insight can help in designing more effective health campaigns, steering public preference towards nutritious options, and making a substantial impact on public health.

By implementing these learnings, there is a promising potential to cultivate better eating habits and foster well-being in the community.

Further Exploration

For those interested in nutrition and its impact on health, additional studies exploring the relation between food choices and conditions like Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, and dementia offer valuable insights.

Exploring these resources can further empower individuals to make informed and healthier food choices, contributing to overall well-being.

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