7 Strategies for Healthy Eating, According to Research
While choosing groceries in the grocery store may mean some habits and ease, it can be harder and even more stressful for others, especially if they do not have much experience in deciphering a nutritional label. No matter what kind of buyer you are, there are certain healthy eating strategies or healthy eating habits that encourage and even subliminally teach us how to make better food choices.
A research team examined 96 studies and recently published research findings in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science that researches the effectiveness of some nudges of healthy eating. They have achieved this by testing them in various interventions that focus on improving food choices.
Here are the seven strategies for a healthy diet – known as nudges – that the researchers have analyzed and the two that work best.
What exactly is an "impetus" in this scenario?
In the magazine, the authors Romain Cadario and Pierre Chandon cite the definition of a nudge from the novel Nudge: Improve health, wealth and happiness decisionsby Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein:
Any aspect of the decision-making architecture that forcibly changes people's behavior (1) without prohibiting options or (2) significantly changing their economic incentives. Bringing fruit at eye level is a push. There is no junk food ban. "
Cadario, who is also an assistant professor at the IÉSEG School of Management in Paris, provides further explanations by examining "how alternatives are offered without removing food choices or changing prices".
In this case, kicking off is simply a gentle push from restaurants, school cafeterias and grocery stores to help consumers make healthier choices.
"Reorganizing a menu or grocery shelf is a breeze. Taxing sodas or banning energy drinks is not, "says Cadario.
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What are the most effective strategies for a healthy diet?
Each of these nudges can be divided into three categories: cognitive-oriented (1-3), affective-oriented (4-5), and behavior-oriented (6-7).
- Descriptive nutrition label. This type of labeling provides the calorie count and information about the nutrients in the food or meal. The label may appear on packaged groceries, pre-prepared meals in cafeterias or self-service buffets, or even menus and menu boards in restaurants.
- Rating nutrition label. This example of labeling is similar to the descriptive nutritional label but includes an additional visual element. The nutrition label either increases the color code of the nutritional values or adds special symbols or logos (eg smileys or heart healthy logos) to help consumers decide whether the option is healthy or not.
- Visibility improvements. This strategy enables consumers to better identify the availability of healthy food choices by making them clearly visible. In a grocery store, this could be achieved by placing healthy foods at eye level and unhealthy ones higher or lower. In a restaurant, this is done by listing healthier dining options on the first page to make them more visible.
- Hedonic improvements. This is the kind of enhancement that an author can best orchestrate. Hedonic improvements require tasteful product descriptions that add to the appeal. A description like lemon-peeled carrots can be more appealing than, for example, the less descriptive sauteed carrots. Also, the presentation of goods can be upgraded in a tasteful way, for example by a colorful fruit pyramid.
- Healthy food is calling. Healthy Diet Calls are both oral and written. For example, restaurant staff could ask the children which vegetables they would like to have for lunch, encouraging them to choose one instead of shunning it. The signs and labels in the cafeterias may also include healthy food requests such as "make a new choice".
- Comfort improvements. Conveniently, convenience enhancements increase the choice of healthy foods by limiting the tedious aspect of eating healthy foods. Offering pre-cut fruits and vegetables eliminates this tedious step for the consumer and makes eating easier and more desirable. How easy is it to rip open a bag of chips? Another way to accomplish this is to offer desserts at the end of the cafeteria line, when the trays are already filled with healthy foods that have been preloaded at the beginning of the line.
- Size improvements. In this type of surgery, the size of the plate or bowl must be changed by either increasing the amount of healthy food on the plate or reducing the amount of unhealthy food on the plate.
While all of these strategies were considered effective, Cadari's most successful behavioral stunts were both comfort and size improvements. The least effective is the calorie labeling.
"The most effective interventions directly change behavior without what people think or feel," he says.