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

Industry News & Opinion

This semester, the East Quad dining team at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is taking steps to offer more authentic global cuisine , Michigan Daily reports.

The team has partnered with the Office of Student Life to start a conversation with students on how best to create and serve Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Additionally, the university invited chefs from Japan and India to campus to help its chefs create more authentic recipes.

The school’s push for more accurate global cuisine was partially inspired by an international food event that got cancelled...

Industry News & Opinion
Madison food truck

The Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, Wis., has partnered with a local organization to debut a food truck that will serve healthy, locally sourced lunch options for Madison high school students, according to The Capital Times .

The truck, which was donated by the Emmi Roth Cheese Co., will visit four high schools Tuesday through Friday, spending a day at each campus. Students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch can use the food truck as they would the school cafeteria for no-cost or discounted meals.

Members of MMSD and partner organization REAP Food...

Industry News & Opinion

Identifying prospective employees may be less challenging for foodservice operators than getting would-be recruits to complete the hiring process , according to a new study of why job applicants bail.

The report shows that nearly three out of fours applicants (74%) will drop their effort to be hired if they suspect management is racist, and two out of three (62%) will flee if they learn of sexual harassment allegations. Roughly the same proportion (65%) will halt their pursuit if they encounter indications of a gender gap in pay.

About half (45%) of candidates won’t show...

Menu Development
zoodles

Here’s how two operations are spotlighting produce this season.

Oodles of zoodles

Binghamton University underscored its growing focus on plant-based options with a recent zoodle pop-up on campus. The pop-up, which served vegetable noodle bowls in vegan and vegetarian varieties, sold out of the dishes in four hours. The Binghamton, N.Y., school aims to add zoodles to its regular menu in the fall.

A buffet boost

The dining team at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, recently re-evaluated its buffet offerings with an eye toward adding healthy options. It updated the fruit and...

FSD Resources