Health experts are always trying to get people to eat better. Unfortunately, the results aren’t always as positive as their intentions. A new study, however, seems to have found a strategy that just might do the trick.

In an effort to simplify the idea of healthy eating, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital decided to conduct an experiment at their very own hospital cafeteria. Making use of color codes that have been ingrained in us since we were kids, they tagged the cafeteria pickings accordingly: healthy foods with a green label, the moderately healthy ones with a yellow label, and the really unhealthy choices with a red label.

The experiment was a success. Sales of items with red labels went down by 9.2 percent while sales of red-tagged beverages decreased by 16.5 percent. Meanwhile, items with green labels found a 4.5 percent increase in sales, and the sales of green-tagged beverages increased by 9.6 percent.

Still, the study authors wanted to find out how they could use the principles of consumer buying behavior to encourage healthier eating. They then placed the healthy food items at eye level, relocating the non-healthy options above or below it. The same strategy was employed for the beverages. The results showed that sales of red-tagged items dropped another 4.9 percent--although sales of green-tagged items also decreased by 0.8 percent. The green-tagged beverages, however, did find an additional four percent increase in sales.

Sometimes, the simpler the idea, the more effective it is. Perhaps you could try the same experiment in your own household to encourage healthy eating in the family. You might also want to bring the idea up the next time there's a parent-teacher conference at your children's schools or when your office is taking suggestions for future improvements for your cafeteria. You can also suggest it to HR, especially if your workplace comes with snack and drink dispensers.


For more on getting your family to eat healthy, check these out on FN:

(Photo of green tag via; yellow tag via; red tag via; edits by

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