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

In an effort to reduce turnover, lunchroom supervisors at elementary schools in a Chicago-area district will see an increase in pay at the start of the new school year, the Chicago Tribune reports .

The board of education for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 on Aug. 8 approved a proposal to increase wages for those supervisors, boosting starting pay from from $12 to $14 an hour. Returning employees who already earn above the new rate will see an hourly increase of 2%.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Joel Martin said he hopes the increased wages will allow...

Ideas and Innovation
coffee shop trailor graphic

A familiar face is coming to the roads of Rutgers University this fall: the Starbucks mermaid. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based school is testing a Starbucks truck throughout the upcoming semester, NJ.com reports . The company began testing trucks on college campuses in 2014, and now has mobile locations at Arizona State University, James Madison University in Virginia, East Carolina University in North Carolina and Sacramento State in California.

The trucks will serve the full lineup of Starbucks beverages that’s available at the outlet’s brick-and-mortar location at Rutgers,...

Industry News & Opinion

A study from Virginia Tech has found a connection between school meal participation and obesity in students. From data that predates the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act , the findings raise questions over whether nutrition standards go far enough.

The research evaluated data from 1998 to 2007, comparing first through eighth grade students who partook in free and reduced-price lunch and those who qualified but opted out. Wen You, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, says she expected to validate theories that increased breakfast...

Industry News & Opinion

Buffalo Public Schools is turning to local chefs and a little competition to help create new menu items, the Buffalo News reports .

In October, local chefs will compete against each other and a team of seven to 10 students led by chef Bobby Anderson, a former contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen,” to create lunch recipes that comply with USDA nutritional requirements and use seasonal produce sourced locally.

“This Chef Challenge is another way to engage our youth in a fun, friendly competition with local area chefs who can help create appealing recipes that will be incorporated...

FSD Resources