Simple tips to "trick" students into healthier eating

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

Child nutrition professionals learn about Cornell’s Smarter Lunchroom Movement at the CIA’s Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference.

Since the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, many districts have seen a decrease in participation. In some cases, this drop was reportedly due to students reacting negatively to the healthier menu items being served.

For operators looking to combat this healthy-dining aversion, Cornell’s Healthier Lunchroom Movement has created a few easy-to-implement ways to “trick” students into making better-for-them choices.

Here are a few of the tips that were shared by Kathryn Hoy, manager of the Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, at The Culinary Institute of America’s fourth annual Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference in San Antonio.

  • Use choice architecture to lead students to make the outcome you want them to make without forcing them. This means you have to offer a choice. For example, ask, “would you like an apple or an orange?” if a student doesn’t have enough components to create a reimbursable meal. If you offer them a choice instead of saying, “You have to go back and get a fruit,” students will think they’ve made the choice to get a fruit and will be more likely to consume the item.
  • Stay away from “reactance.” If you don’t offer a choice, students will rebel against a threat to their freedom. For example, when schools in the Midwest switched from ketchup pump bottles to packets, student reacted negatively. First, a black market was created (students brought the condiment from home and sold to friends). Then, at graduation, the students handed the principal packets of ketchup to express their displeasure with having the ketchup pumps removed.
  • If kids think they made the choice they be will 40% more likely to repeat that decision in the future; again, choice must be offered
  • Give items, especially vegetables, cool or appealing names to describe the food. When carrots were named “X-ray vision carrots” in one school district, consumption doubled.
  • Rearrange your milk cooler to put flavored milk in the back if you want to increase consumption of non-flavored milk. When this was done in a school, it increased consumption of white milk by 46%. But be careful: If you remove flavored milk, total milk sales decline 11%.
  • Prime students to make healthier decisions. When green beans and bananas were offered on the menu, students who did not take these items were 6% less likely to take a cookie and 11% less likely to take ice cream.
  • Use prime real estate to showcase healthier options. When a salad bar was moved right by the register instead of behind the service area, sales increased 300%.
  • Set smart pricing strategies. Value is important when making decisions. For example, if you offer four cookies for a dollar, that is perceived as having high value. Instead of offering four cookies, bundle a cookie with milk to increase sales of the healthy beverage.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

Industry News & Opinion

Panera Bread Co. announced today that it intends to buy the Au Bon Pain brand as a way of opening more bakery-cafes in colleges, healthcare facilities, office buildings, travel centers and malls.

Au Bon Pain, which was Panera’s sole business under an earlier incarnation of the company, consists of 304 bakery-cafes. Several units are located in noncommercial venues.

Panera owns or holds the franchise rights to about 2,050 restaurants, few of which are located outside of strip malls.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Immediately after the deal was...

FSD Resources