4 visual tricks to encourage healthy eating

health food medicine stethoscope

Clever presentation and other visual maneuvers can nudge customers toward healthy dining decisions. Here are four simple ways operations are using visuals to boost healthy choices. 

1. Create a visual plate

wildcat plate

Shortly after the USDA switched from a food pyramid to a food plate, the dining services team at the University of New Hampshire in Durham created its own physical version of the plate for students to use in the dining halls. Named the wildcat plate after the school's mascot, each plate shows the recommended portions of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and protein as directed by the USDA.

2. Put produce front and center

fruit display

To make sure customers notice the healthy options available at its cafe, Stanford Health Care in Stanford, Calif., places something unexpected at eye level in its bakery case: fresh produce. Hospital officials say that although the case also includes traditional bakery items such as whole-grain cookies and other sweets, customers are more likely to take fruit since it’s the first thing they see. 

3. Make food pop with black trays

black tray fork

Richmond County School System in Augusta, Ga., switched to black trays and dishware in two of the district’s high schools to make colorful fruits and vegetables stand out. The dining team also began arranging fruits and vegetables by color, in the order of a rainbow, to make them more appealing as students go down the lunch line. 

4. Create a simple labeling system

color tickets

Sound Bites Cafe at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., uses a traffic light labeling system to encourage healthy eating.  Menu items are marked with a green, yellow or red circle to help customers easily identify which dishes provide the highest nutritional value. Green marked items are the healthiest, yellow items are slightly less healthy and red items are those that are least healthy and meant to be eaten only occasionally. 

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