NUTRITION
May 5, 2015

Make Eating Well A No-Brainer

You can eat well without a hassle. Just make sure nutritious food has these three qualities.

You have the best of intentions when you buy all those fresh fruits and vegetables, but then they end up withered and lifeless in the refrigerator drawers — wasted money, wasted food, and wasted nutrition. It doesn’t have to be that way.

A simple shift in thinking can change the way you and your family eat, putting those good fruits and vegetables into your body where they belong instead of in the garbage.

A study conducted at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab reviewed 112 studies on healthy eating and behaviors associated with good food choices and discovered there are three underlying principles that guide our food choices.

It's why the cookie jar works so well: It's convenient (on the countertop), attractive (cute cookie jar), and normal (always there.).

People chose healthy foods when they were made visible and easy to reach — convenient; when they looked desirable — attractive; and when they seemed like the obvious choice — normal.

They called the three qualities The CAN approach. It's why the cookie jar works so well: It's convenient (on the countertop), attractive (cute cookie jar), and normal (always there.).

The CAN Approach can be applied to nutritious foods as well, so they can be made just as desirable as cookies. “A healthy diet can be as easy as making the healthiest choice the most convenient, attractive, and normal,” Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design, said in a statement.

These three principles can lead to an endless number of changes that can guide people — including you — to eat healthier, according to Wansink.

Instead of hiding fruit in the refrigerator, place it in a bowl on the kitchen counter, say beside your cell phone. Now it’s convenient. Place the fruit in a pretty bowl, and it’s more attractive. If you keep other, less nutritious snacks in the house, store them in an out-of-the-way place, like the hard-to-reach cabinet above the refrigerator, and put the fruit in plain view. That makes it seem like the obvious or normal choice.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and school cafeterias can apply these principles as well. Bananas placed next to a well-lit cash register become more convenient, attractive, and normal to grab than the triple chocolate chunk ice cream stored in the back of the freezer.

Seafood salads, given an enticing name, highlighted on a restaurant menu, and pointed out by the server become more convenient, attractive and normal than the deep-fried seafood platter listed on the last page of the menu.

Schools can encourage students to choose low fat white milk over chocolate milk by placing it in the easy-to-reach front of the cooler (convenient), selling it in a “cool” container (attractive), and giving it more cooler space than the chocolate milk (normal). Previous studies conducted by Dr. Wansink found that these changes increased the consumption of white milk by 30 to 60% in schools.

The CAN Approach is easy to incorporate into our daily routines, and could be just the tool we need to make eating healthy as effortless as breathing.

The study is published in Psychology and Marketing.
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