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Change Logistics of School Cafeterias to Encourage Healthy Eating

The HealthGal Health Guide November 18, 2010
  • Five days a week kids eat one, sometimes two meals, plus snacks at school.  One of the biggest challenges schools face is offering an affordable healthy meal that conforms to certain nutrition guidelines.  The there's the challenge of getting kids who have been raised on high fat, high sodium, high sugar, high calorie tasty foods to embrace healthier foods.  After all, banning junk food and replacing it with tofu and escarole can back fire big time.....what happened to Jamie Oliver's healthy school program showcased on TV recently?  Well some researchers at Cornell University recently submitted a floor plan to the New York Times Op Ed page that showcased some serious creative planning that encourages healthier eating, just a bit insidiously.  Here are some of the elements of the floor plan and recommendations they made:

     

    Rename foods - Don't just call it corn, call it Creamy Corn.  The adjectives you lend to food names can have quite a subliminal effect on the young consumer.  Even if the corn is made with fat free milk and other healthier ingredients, the name invokes a satiating feeling.

    Use opaque tops that are not see through on freezers and food bins that contain less healthy food choices - That way your visual senses do not immediately scream to your brain to buy it.

    Use big colorful bowls to display fruit and produce - Again, when the eye visually gets a message that is pretty, it is more likely to encourage further investigation.

    Place those bowls in strategic grabbing position - Especially near the check out counter, since last minute impulses to grab fruit or vegetables may be instigated.

    Require kids to pay extra for cookies and treats - Don't include the price in the lunch plan.  Sometimes when kids are asked to squander their extra money or allowance on foods, they won't and they'll choose the free fruit instead.

    Have the people serving actually ask kids if they'd like salad or fruit - This can provoke a selection that might otherwise not be made

    Make plates smaller and bowls smaller - This will help kids naturally understand portion control visually.

    Create a healthy express line - So kids who grab the healthy food options like salads and wraps and fruit and yogurt can check out more quickly than their junk-eating counterparts.

     

    Frankly, after seeing this floor layout and these recommendations it occurred to me that corporate America should try and implement similar changes in their cafeterias across the nation.  Adults also succumb to subliminal messages, and strategic placement of certain foods and incentives may just help the average overweight American to shed pounds and get healthier....without even really feeling it!!