UGA research offers social media tips to influence diet

Researchers analyzed 50,000 food photos from chefs, nutritionists, and food stylists.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 10:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - New research from University of Georgia gives insight over how strategic social media posts might influence a healthy diet.

Yilang Peng, assistant professor in the university’s department of financial planning, housing, and consumer economics, said high calorie food often racks up the most likes on social media. These unhealthy foods can quickly rise to the top of our feeds, inducing cravings.

“Pizza, cakes, desserts – they’re attracting people’s attention,” said Peng. “If the algorithm is picking up those popular photos and making them more popular, it can be bad for you.”

Peng and other UGA researchers analyzed 50,000 food photos from chefs, nutritionists, and food stylists. While the study was initially geared toward food influencers, experts said anyone can benefit from these findings.

Greasy and gooey content typically earns more likes. Studies of the brain find people process photos of high-calorie meals faster than low-calorie meals.

In other words, salads and fruit cups require extra effort and attention to detail to earn a double tap and place on social media feeds.

“You have to pay attention to how to make them more visually appealing,” said Peng.

Photos of healthy meals should incorporate:

  • Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow
  • Repetition and patterns
  • Visual complexity with varied detail and texture
  • Clean background

“These types of pictures tend to be more popular than the others,” said Peng. “You can establish a trend of posting and posting health foods online and in this way encourage more people to follow a more healthy diet.”