Researchers from Cornell University recently starting using some basic commercial marketing strategies in school cafeterias in an effort to shift kid's food choices in a healthier direction--with impressive results. Tactics as simple as making healthy foods more visible, more convenient, and more appealing succeeded. For example:
- Moving fresh fruit into an attractive colorful display doubled fruit sales.
- Placing chocolate milk in the back of the cooler, behind the plain milk, increased sales of plain milk.
- Putting ice-cream treats in a freezer with an opaque lid rather than a see-through window decreased sales of those foods.
- Simply asking kids if they wanted a salad increased salad sales by a third.
Marketers have been using "behavioral economics" for decades to drive consumption of their nutrient-poor, factory-rendered specimens. Why not use the same tricks on YOURSELF to promote healthier choices? And why stop at the school cafeteria? These tricks work at home, too.
Try to see your refrigerator and cupboards like a marketer would: How would you arrange the "goods" to promote "sales" of the products you'd most like to move? Some suggestions:
- Place an attractive bowl of fresh fruit right in the middle of an easily reachable counter.
- Position cut-up vegetables and a healthy dip at eye-level in the front of the fridge.
- Keep cookies and other sweet treats out of sight, preferably in a hard-to-reach cupboard—or better yet, don’t keep ANY at home. Make yourself have to go out for junk food.
- Use smaller plates when serving calorie-dense items like casseroles; larger plates for salads and vegetables.
It turns out that small changes like these can actually promote substantial shifts in our choices. Stop letting food marketers determine how healthy your diet is. Instead, put their tricks to work for you and your family!
For more on putting "behavioral economics" to work for you, check out Brian Wansinck's strategy-packed (and highly-entertaining) book, Mindless Eating.
Guest Blogger and Fitness Enthusiast