“Our health product works pretty well!”
“As far as cookies go, ours is relatively healthy!”
“Our product is based 100% on research we did on what words, phrases, and ideas make you spend the most money and keep you coming back for more!”
Nooooot exactly the way most marketing campaigns run. No, they're much more full of superlatives and black and white info. No gray areas, no in-betweens, and making absolutely no mistake that theirs is the best (and, so, only) option.
When it comes to health and nutrition, we’ve been conditioned to view everything in two distinct camps: healthy and not healthy. Good and bad. Yes and no.
But if you ask me, that's a pretty poor way to look at it. Mention a gluten-free cookie made from organic almond flour and sweetened with local, organic honey made by bees raised by a humane apiarist (is inhumane apiculture a big issue?...), and most people would think “healthy.”
And while it might be nice to say that this comes with the assumed context of “as compared to other cookies,” this often isn't the case. Most folks will just file it away in the healthy category and store it until later when they have to make a choice.
A Spectrum of Spectrums
The way I see it, healthy should be viewed as a spectrum, with More Healthy on one end and Less Healthy on the other. In between, you have a bunch of smaller spectrums like cookies and vegetables and face wash. The aforementioned gluten-free cookies might be closer to the More Healthy end of the spectrum than anything that Nabisco pedals, but the whole cookie category probably wouldn’t even overlap with the ribeye steak section.
Viewing choices on a spectrum serves two purposes. The first is that it stops you from making bad decisions based on faulty logic. Rather than considering a food “healthy” and mindlessly eating it (and perhaps eating more of it and more often than a less-healthy version of the same food), you might remind yourself that “No, this is just a healthier pancake” and make the decision to have a handful of almonds as a snack instead. Save that pancake for an occasional treat.
[You see what we’re doing? Making decisions. Changing thoughts. Taking back control. Eat it, marketers.]
The second is that it helps you keep your choices in perspective. It can be easy to get caught up in the “what’s the point?” of it all when it seems like the only way to health is to quadruple your food bill and only buy the freshest, localest, organicest, grass-fed-or-pasture-raisedest foods, but that’s not really true. It’s the whole “don’t let perfect become the enemy of good” thing. Sure, the chicken thighs may not be from free-range chickens, and the vegetables might have been frozen in a bag, but it’s still a better meal than a Lean Cuisine or something from a drive-thru. When you make better choices, you should recognize it and be proud of yourself. Don’t get upset because it’s not “the best” option.
A nice thing about the spectrum, too, is that it’s adjustable. There is no set spectrum out there: it exists only when you have a choice to make, and it is completely personalized for your own situation and context. You just have to remember it’s there when choosing.