Chocolate really does taste better when you’re on a diet

The guilty feeling dieters get from eating forbidden foods may heighten our enjoyment of them, finds new study

When you’re on a diet, forbidden foods such as chocolate always seem to taste far better.

And experts have now revealed that treats really could taste better when we're not supposed to eat them – and the same theory could extend to other guilty pleasures too.

Guilt is more often associated with negative emotions, but the study at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the US found a positive connection between guilt and food.Telling yourself chocolate is bad will only make it taste yummier ©Rex

Lead researcher Kelly Goldsmith organised a series of studies involving 1,103 people, who were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was given a puzzle to make them more prone to guilt while the other was given one that was unrelated.

Participants were then given cups of chocolate and sweets and were asked to rate how good they tasted initially and again in three days time.

The results showed that the group who were more likely to be feeling guilty enjoyed the treats more.
The next test looked at whether receiving health information could make participants connect chocolate and sweets with guilt.

The taste test was performed again and results confirmed that those who had been primed to feel guilty – by reading about health issues connected to the foods – were more likely both to feel guilty and to enjoy the treats .

And worryingly, Kelly explained that this could extend to other behaviours, such as smoking or drinking - we know we shouldn’t so we enjoy these activities all the more. 

With food, the more forbidden a treat, the more delicious it tastes, so it’s no wonder so many diets fail as we give in to our sweet tooth. It also helps to explain why New Year’s resolutions so often go awry.

Perhaps  we’ll give up broccoli for this New Year…