Strategic food placement and proximity can encourage healthier eating habits, according to a research review recently released by University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Science.
Scientists concluded that cafeterias can measurably impact diners’ food choices by reordering food options and making less nutritious food more difficult to reach—a practice also known as food nudging.
Though the analysis revealed that limited research has been conducted on the topic of healthy food nudging specifically, 16 of the 18 studies included in the review showed that the method made a positive impact.
“The foodservice operators and the retail sector have been using the principles of nudging to push [their] products to the consumers, e.g. placing specific products at adults’ eye level, while other products are left at children’s eye level,” said Federico Perez-Cueto, an associate professor from the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “The question is whether we can also use this simple and low-cost method to move people’s food behavior in a more healthy direction, or to facilitate the choice of healthier options.”
Perez-Cueto expects food nudging to become a critical point for cafeterias attempting to promote healthier eating habits among guests. However, he notes it is only one part of a larger story.
“If you want people to eat enough vegetables, it is not the only thing to do,” he said. “There is [a] need for policies, recommendations, voluntary agreements [and] information campaigns, but nudging can contribute, and we think the contribution can be substantial.”