25/02/2011 14:38 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Imagining Eating Healthy Food Can Improve Your Diet

With all the advice out there on how to eat healthily including what foods you should eat more of and what you should avoid, you'd think more people would have a better diet, wouldn't you?

woman-eating-healthy-salad Imagine yourself eating salad, lots of lovely salad. Photo: Getty

But that's the trouble. Just knowing what foods are healthy doesn't mean you're going to eat them. Researchers from McGill University in Quebec, Canada, are fully aware of that fact. But after carrying out a study involving 177 college students, they think they've found an answer to the problem.

If you want to eat a better, healthier diet, you have to have a definite action plan then visualise yourself carrying it out, they say.

In tests, the researchers challenged students in the university's halls of residence to try to eat more fruit for a week. Some were shown how to make an action plan - that is, when, where and how they would buy, prepare and eat the fruit - and then asked to imagine themselves carrying out their plan.

And guess what? The planning and visualisation group ended up eating twice as much fruit as the others who were just told to eat more.

It's not the first time visualisation techniques have been used to help people achieve their goals, say the researchers, whose study is due to be published in the journal Psychology and Health. "Athletes do lots of work mentally rehearsing their performances before competing and it's often very successful," says Barbel Knauper, one of the researchers.

"So we thought having people mentally rehearse how they were going to buy and eat their fruit should make it more likely that they would actually do it. And this is exactly what happened."

Go on, give it a try - and let us know if it works.

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