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Calorie Count Blog

How to Get Others to Eat Healthy Food


By Mary_RD on Aug 19, 2010 10:00 AM in Dieting & You
Edited By +Rachel Berman

Don’t you wish the people around you loved to eat healthy food?  Especially those who won’t eat this or that and won’t even try!  Well, Brian Wansink, PhD, Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and best-selling author, has some advice for you. You may know Dr. Wansink from his research on the bottomless bowl and how the size of drinking glasses influence portions.  "We should learning from the food industry marketers how to sell healthy food," says Dr. Wansink.  I caught up with Dr. Wansink at the Food for Your Whole Life Health Symposium earlier this summer to ask him how to use marketing tactics to get our loved ones to eat healthy food.  Here is some of what Dr. Wansink had to say:

Dr. Wansink, what have you learned about people over time?

Getting people to eat healthy food is a balance of emotions and reason.  People don’t want a health lecture; they want to identify with their choices and be happy about them.  But, do people know what they like? No!  They are highly suggestible.

I’ve heard you say, “We do a bad job of guiding the eater’s experience” towards healthy food.  Please explain.

It’s true.  The supermarkets are laid out to maximize exposure to what they want you to buy.  We should be doing that with healthy food in the home.  We should rearrange our snack cupboards to place the healthy foods front-and-center.  Display them in attractive containers.  Make junk food hard to get.  (Soda?  Sure. It’s downstairs in the cellar – warm.)  It’s a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.  Our research shows that intake increases when serving dishes are kept on the dinner table.  A good tactic would be to keep the salad bowl on the dining table while leaving the other foods back in the kitchen.

Can you tell me about a time when you guided people to eat healthy?

Once, I was hired by a state health department to increase in fruit sales in school lunchrooms on a grant under the Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative.  Lecturing to the kids had not increased sales.  The schools wanted to drop the price but I suggested we keep the price but raise the “perceived value.”   We did it by making the fruit look clean, elevated and inviting. For $40, we bought a beautiful fruit bowl on a stand and lighting to set it off.   We displayed the fruit basket prominently in the lunch line away from the chips and rice crispy treats.  We moved the fruit next to the register to guide impulse purchases.  Fruit sales increased by 50% within 2 weeks.  

 And, then, your book, Marketing Nutrition, makes other important points.  Do I have them right?

  • Give a new dish a desirable name. 
    Taste is subjective and so don’t expect your loved ones to welcome a new dish that has an unpleasant ingredient in its name.  For example, a bad name is "prickly pear", whereas a good name is "kiwi fruit".  The best names have a sensory theme and invoke happy days.
     
  • Introduce new foods gradually, prepared in familiar ways.
    Hide the Textured Vegetable Protein in the spaghetti sauce and slice the raw Jerusalem artichokes into matchsticks just like the carrots.  A veggie burger on the grill is not so different from a hamburger.
         
  • Target the new food introduction to the one most likely to accept it. 
    Feed your best eater first and your worst eater last.  Don't give a picky eater any influence.

That's right!

Thank you, Dr. Wansink.

 
Your thoughts....

What tactics have you used to influence your loved ones to accept healthy food?



Comments


This couldnt've have come popped into my inbox at a better time...

Yesterday i typed up a 2 page letter to my father, addressing his revolting eating habits and the affects they're having on not only himself, but those around him. Hearing him demolishing the kitchen actually causes me physical and mental distress, and his health has deteriorated beyond all reasonable grounds so it needs to change!

Anyway, this letter, its not a pleasant read whatsoever. Sugar coating wasn't an option but i've been deliberating whether such a harsh method could work at all.

I think this might just be an approach that deserves a serious attempt.
Not only for him, but it'd just make the kitchen a more vibrant place in general!



Honestly, I don't give my family the option...there is really little to no junk food in the house.  My children are not allowed to drink soda until an un-designated "older" age and if we want an indulgence, like ice cream, we make a special date, go out, have one scoop and then come home. 

I am also not a short order cook...which means if you don't like what I make, you don't have to eat it, but you don't have another meal until the next meal time.  It gets the family to try new dishes which usually they enjoy.  It may sound harsh, but I always make food with care and I make sure it looks fun and enjoyable.

Finally, I get the kids involved in grocery store purchases...If my daughter picks the eggplant, she usually wants to try the eggplant.  If she helps me cook the eggplant, she eats more of it.  Also, I put fruit and veggies in pretty bowls in the fridge, eye level, so if you want a snack it's the first thing you see.  The stuff that's not as healthy is stored in the veggie drawers on the bottom of the fridge...guess what usually gets eaten first?



Jolenenew, I totally agree with you 150%. My mother was the same way and it has lead to me making healthier choices as an adult... these techniques work, and I wish more parents were this way with their children...



These seem like good ideas for children...but what if you have a husband with horrible eating habits? He's an adult and I can't MAKE him eat healthy.



while i agree with this, i can say that it doesn't work for every person. my oldest, 7, will still usually choose junk over healthy even if it means more work or waiting. my youngest, 4, on the other hand does not even like most junk food. sometimes it's just who they are.



I usually keep a pretty bowl of fruit on the dining table and in the kitchen. More is definitely eaten that way.

I don't believe in making any food taboo because it raises the reward value and encourages bingeing when the opportunity arrives. But, I moderate so-called naughties.

I agree with the article and don't dispute it at all. But, I think the most effective way to encourage healthy eating is to model it. I don't push my choices on my kids overtly, but they all eat more fruits and veggies then they used to and certainly more than their peers. They also get more intentional exercise.



I have an 8 year old granddaughter that I am desperately trying to teach healthy eating habits to.  The only food she likes is pasta and fast food.  There is not one vegetable that she likes.  I can see a slight improvement in the year I have lived with her, but I would like to see a lot more progress.  She is constipated frequently and she is above the normal weight for her age and height.  I have a weight problem, and from experience I don't want her to go through life as an obese person. 



Last week in the grocery store I witnessed a woman who saved over $100 on a nearly $300 order using coupons.  I did not see one bit of fresh fruit, veggies, meat or dairy in her cart.  I wonder, do people really raise their kids on frozen pizzas, taquitos, fruity pebbles and twizzlers?  I posed this question to some friends and family and they pointed out that all the coupons are for name-brand, prepared items.  Why don't grocers or produce producers ever distribute coupons for their products?



So far I've only tried lecturing, specially with my dad who has a high blood presure condition, but now that I read this article, I'll try to change some of my tactics, for  smoother ones.... TY



leilanijj

I have exactly the same problem, as soon as he knows I've used an ingredient he 'doesn't like', he'll refuse to touch it! And you're right, because they're adults and contribute to the food buying, they have as much right as you to choose what you both eat.

However, I've realised that even though he's a grown man, refusing to try things because he doesn't think he likes them is a childish attitude, and therefore treating him like a child can actually work (though they're canny these hubbies, so you really have to play innocent!

I hide food in sauces, especially vegetables (he professes to ONLY like sweetcorn, or carrots out of a tin, bleurgh), or another simple one is to prepare something and just not tell him what it is! The number of times he's assumed he's eating chicken when it's actually turkey or Quorn :o) And with fish too, if it looks like something he likes (like, erm, chicken) by battering it, he'll start it, and that's half the battle won.

The other thing is, be stubborn. If he expects me to cook and gives me no input (he's not great with food suggestions) then I'll make what I think is best, and if he doesn't eat it, tough - more for me in leftovers, and he'll have to cobble together something for himself. I'm sure that sheer laziness and dislike of cooking plays a big role in me getting anything healthy at all down his throat!

Hope some of these suggestions help, but if anyone has anything else to add, I'm forever on the lookout for new sneaky sneaky ideas :oD



My boyfriend didn't have a healthy diet, but it is improving.  He trusts me when I tell him I think he will like a "new" item that he's never tried.  I gained his trust by learning what he likes and slowly introducing him to similar but healthier options.  As his experience grows and he finds that he really does like more than meat, potatoes, and pizza...he is more willing to try what I suggest.  He is also okay with me "hiding" healthy items in the spaghetti sauce, etc.  I make sure to back off when I see he's not in the mood to be adventurous.



I'm happy this came up. I really shows you how just by names and apperance of some (usually healthy) foods can and will psych someone out and they will refuse to eat it or if they do eat it they will be stubborn and say how nasty it is.

Camoflauge the food first is what I do. Hide it in a soup and whatnot, then reveal to the kids that "Hey did you know there was Bok Choy in there, and it was good, huh?". They usually get sheepish knowing I caught them and they will willing eat more of it.

 



This article has some great ideas. I use the fruit bowl on the counter and more fruit gets eaten for sure. I like the idea of keeping a pretty bowl in the fridge front and center so will try that with both fruit and vegetables. Might help me pick the right thing too!

My kids are pretty good fruit and vegetable eaters. And I have discovered with my son that he likes many vegetables raw that he won't touch cooked. Even zucchini (which is my favorite)!

My husband is still the hold out on eating fruit (almost never) and vegetables (peas, corn, salad). I just make sure there is a salad available and have the vegetables on the table so he can try it if he wants to.



leilanijj, I have the same problem as well. Here are some of the things that seem to be working in the husband/veggie department:

-cheese sauce! My husband will basically eat anything covered in my homemade cheese sauce. Now, its not light on the calories, thats for sure, but if it means he will eat KALE...thats ok with me! My favorite dish to make with this is roasted vegetables (potatoes, kale, onion, peppers, brocolli, etc.) on top of some form of grains, covered in cheese sauce. He likes it and now it is a 'familiar, safe' veggie dish that I can sneak new things into! 

-barley! I made this veggie soup one day, was amazed when he actually tried it, and loved it! I discovered that he loved the barley in it!! Now, he will basically eat anything if he knows that there is barley in it, because thats kind of all he sees....hmmm....short attention span, thank you!!! So now I make new 'barley dishes' for him, and sneak all kinds of veggies in there, like beef barley soup with carrots, potatoes, spinach...he eats it. So maybe see if you can find a grain that your husband likes. 

-biscuits! he also loves biscuits, and will blindly shove food into his mouth if it is accompanied by a biscuit!....again, short attention span...one-track mind... hallelujah! Soo, I make chicken stew, fill it with veggies, make biscuits, and voila! I am a master chef in his eyes. 

-stealthy changes in familiar recipes: I make a meal that he likes, such as shepherds pie, then I gradually change it to be healthier, and he doesn't notice because its just 'shepherd's pie'...so far he hasn't noticed that I've been adding more black beans and less ground beef...

So that's what I've been trying, and the other day he ate chickpeas without even a word of complaint!...so i feel that i am making some progress :)

good luck! any good tips, pass them on!

 



Original Post by: renepaquin

Last week in the grocery store I witnessed a woman who saved over $100 on a nearly $300 order using coupons.  I did not see one bit of fresh fruit, veggies, meat or dairy in her cart.  I wonder, do people really raise their kids on frozen pizzas, taquitos, fruity pebbles and twizzlers?  I posed this question to some friends and family and they pointed out that all the coupons are for name-brand, prepared items.  Why don't grocers or produce producers ever distribute coupons for their products?


Yes, my MIL does this. It is awful. =( "She just doesn't have time."

I bet she would save even more making food instead of buying prepared.



I have the same husband "issue." My husband has always been a perfect size...never gains or loses, no matter what he eats. He could actually live on ramen noodles for every meal (hello sodium)! So thank you to everyone who had a tip to get the other half to eat some more healthy food. Hiding veggies in sauce has worked and I have seen him sneak a piece of fruit since I put them in a nice bowl on the kitchen table. At least I have my son on my side. This four year old will eat any veggie put in front of him cooked or raw.



I was also a mom who provided good food, fruit, vegs, healthy choices, and it worked.... until my son was old enough to get a job and buy his own junk food! Then it kind of backfired because he overindulged in "forbidden fruit", except it wasn't fruit! LOL. Now it's hard to get him back on track and his weight is skyrocketing.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get him to stop buying the junk food? I've tried banishing it from the house, but then just sneaks it and hides it. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Strangely enough, it hasn't had the same effect on my daughter. She turned vegetarian when she was 13 and is now 18 and seems to rarely eat the junk, and gets excited with new and healthy foods. So maybe it's a gender or just a personality thing.



I am 19, and I live by myself. I have friends over a lot who love junk food and I do too! :) But I love fruits like pineapple, bananas, and apples way more. I keep both in the house. I measure EVERYTHING though, even the fruit. A favorite snack that is both "junk food" and something healthy is...I measure out half a cup of chex mex (the 40% less fat one) and a banana. This way I get a little bit of "junk food" and something healthy for me. And it's about 200 calories. 

And when I buy chips and other "junk food" I try to buy the light kind, fat free kind, stuff like that. I don't keep soda in the house, but instead of I have lots of water, vitamin water, and sobe life water. A lot of my friends found out they love it way more than soda. Way less calories and more vitamins. 



Original Post by: renepaquin

Last week in the grocery store I witnessed a woman who saved over $100 on a nearly $300 order using coupons.  I did not see one bit of fresh fruit, veggies, meat or dairy in her cart.  I wonder, do people really raise their kids on frozen pizzas, taquitos, fruity pebbles and twizzlers?  I posed this question to some friends and family and they pointed out that all the coupons are for name-brand, prepared items.  Why don't grocers or produce producers ever distribute coupons for their products?


Actually the grocery store I work for (Kroger) DOES have coupons for their produce department, meat department, etc..

When you fill out the grocery store application with your address and if you shop there enough times, the store "tracks" in the computer system what your "card" buys. Then they send customized coupons to your house. I got a 3$ off coupon for their produce department when you bought 8$ or more or something like that. And these aren't employee coupons, but coupons CUSTOMERS get. Also online you can load coupons to your card. Although lots of the online coupons are for processed food I have seen some like "save 5$ on our meat department". And you just load your coupons to your card.

I have seen some coupons in the papers. About two months ago there was one for sunburst yellow tomatoes. I had never tried them, but I cut the coupon and found out I loved them! I do think that produce manufactures and stores should put produce/meat/dairy, etc. coupons in ads in the paper more often to encourage people to try different things. So coupons like that ARE out there, but they are difficult to find compared to "buy 3 boxes of frozen pizza, get one free".



Excellent article. Now if they coudl write something similar for the workplace would be great!

Theyre stil bringing sugar donuts, cookies, candy,tons of  refined sugar and white flower  birthday cakes(birthday tomorrow) and all that usual stuff.

Very rarely do we see fruits and veggies.

I've almsot completely stopped having our 3pm work time-out coffee time because of all these.

 



It's not anyone's job to try to change the way other people live, even just by trying to get them to eat healthier. I simply can't agree with this type of food-policing on any level. Give help to those who ask for it - don't try to impose your lifestyles on other people, even if you have evidence that your lifestyle is healthier than theirs. Maybe they don't want to be healthy? That's their perogative. I also don't agree with fast-food being taxed, or made less attainable or convenient in order to deter people from eating it. That shouldn't be anyone's job, especially the governments. Not to say that the author agrees with this, just going off on a small tangent here.

That being said, I don't have anything wrong with doings things to make healthy food seem attractive or more attainable. If fast-food industries can use marketing angles to make their products seem more appealing, the same liberty should be given to those who market all other kinds of food.

I guess I don't inherently disagree with any of the above proposed methods. I just don't think it should be looked at as "trying to get people to eat healthier" rather than "making it easier for people to eat healthy if they choose to".



jwinokur

As a general rule I would agree with you, people have the free will to eat what they want to.

I think for me it's because my husband is clinically obese, I love him, and I'd really rather bring down his chances of dying an early death. Also, as the cook in the house, it is partly my responsibility to make sure what we're eating isn't too unhealthy (don't get me wrong, he gets his favourite - pizza - too). And it's probably my fault that he put on so much weight in the first place (so a fair dollop of guilt in there) because I love to indulge him, it's so hard NOT to buy him the things I know he loves when he asks me to.

Another factor is that I love vegetables, but buying them and cooking them for just me and having to cook something else for him is just beyond my ability when I'm knackered after a long day at work, so maybe it's me being selfish, but I would really appreciate him at least trying the things I love like I do for him. It's the attitude of stubborn refusal that causes the sneaky sneakies!

So yes, live and let live, but it's hard to let someone you love constantly put junk in their bodies and refuse to try new things. Is that justification enough? Maybe not, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try.



When it comes to feeding a family, it is usually the mom's job to chart the course.  I can't believe the talk at work about little Johnny and what he will and won't eat.  As a mom who has raised 3 children now in their twenties I have walked the walk.  I cared enough to develop their tastes without undue influence from the outside by only preparing what I knew was healthful.  One meal was prepared for the family and if they didn't eat it that was ok but nothing else was given.  When we went out for supper (perhaps once per week or two weeks) they could indulge in whatever they wanted.  All kids now are in their twenties, the two girls are both very health conscious, my son who went through the pizza diet in late high school and early university years has rejoined the rest of the family for the most part.  So hang in there moms it is always harder to say "no" but it is better for them in the long run and eventually they will realize it and tell you so.  Love them enough to care.



Original Post by: jwinokur

It's not anyone's job to try to change the way other people live, even just by trying to get them to eat healthier. I simply can't agree with this type of food-policing on any level. Give help to those who ask for it - don't try to impose your lifestyles on other people, even if you have evidence that your lifestyle is healthier than theirs. Maybe they don't want to be healthy? That's their perogative. I also don't agree with fast-food being taxed, or made less attainable or convenient in order to deter people from eating it. That shouldn't be anyone's job, especially the governments. Not to say that the author agrees with this, just going off on a small tangent here.

That being said, I don't have anything wrong with doings things to make healthy food seem attractive or more attainable. If fast-food industries can use marketing angles to make their products seem more appealing, the same liberty should be given to those who market all other kinds of food.

I guess I don't inherently disagree with any of the above proposed methods. I just don't think it should be looked at as "trying to get people to eat healthier" rather than "making it easier for people to eat healthy if they choose to".


I agree with you fundamentally. "To each their own" is a quote I often live by. However, an insane amount of people in the United States are overweight and obese. This new epidemic eventually does effect more people than just themselves, as healthcare costs bleed out into the rest of society. Also, even children today are becoming obese and diabetic at an oustanding rate.. with many health issues and early deaths in store for them. Some sort of action needs to be taken, and if there is a large support effort from the "general public" then perhaps we can turn this epidemic around.

I absolutely agree with this post. It would be astounding if supermarkets followed such methods too. I also loved the idea about promoting health foods like fruit in school. Such a clever, non-obtrusive way to suggest better habits!



I am with jwinokur on this one. I was very disappointed to read all these posts about hiding certain foods in their family's dishes.

Convincing people to eat more healthily is one thing, manipulating them into following your lifestyle against their wishes is quite another.



Comment Removed

Original Post by: renepaquin

Last week in the grocery store I witnessed a woman who saved over $100 on a nearly $300 order using coupons.  I did not see one bit of fresh fruit, veggies, meat or dairy in her cart.  I wonder, do people really raise their kids on frozen pizzas, taquitos, fruity pebbles and twizzlers?  I posed this question to some friends and family and they pointed out that all the coupons are for name-brand, prepared items.  Why don't grocers or produce producers ever distribute coupons for their products?


Last year when I was unemployed for a month or two, I got very excited about saving money with coupons and only buying food that was on sale.  I would save as much as half off my grocery bill (my record was 56%).  The thing is, if you only look at the junk in the sales fliers, that is all you see, but generally grocery stores will clearance the produce that is in season when they have overstock.  If someone doesn't buy it, they just have to throw it away!  One thing I learned is that when they send you sales fliers in the mail, don't even open the sales fliers all the way.  All of the produce and lean meat is on the front and the back.  Inside is all the processed stuff.  You might have to peak in there for bread and bulk items like nuts and granola, but don't get enticed by the frozen burritos.  Recently since it is summer I have been getting two cantaloupes for 88 cents, plus 10 ears of corn for $1.  4lbs of strawberries will be $2.  Not to mention most greens are less than a dollar a bunch.  Produce is cheap, and I live in an expensive area!  Just buy the sale stuff, it also keeps your menu interesting since it changes weekly.  I refuse to buy Chicken breast for more than $2/lb, and when it is on sale for less I just get a ton and freeze it.

Also, if you area a member of a buyers club like City Market (Kroger, king soopers, etc)  and always use your card, they will track your purchases and send you coupons for what you buy most often.  So if you are buying frozen pizza and taquitos, they will send you coupons for those to entice you back into the store.  I only get coupons for free bags of baby carrots, discount spring greens and coffee.  Marketing at it's best!  Go figure.  I love targeted coupons. :)



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Amen! My parents gave us *junk* as treats once in a while, I was only allowed to drink soda from age 10 and up (if it wasn`t later than that) and there was ALWAYS a bowl of fruit on the table and cut up raw veggies with healthy dip in the fridge for us starving teenagers when we got back from school. I never had a problem with that way of eating, (or at least not that i can remember) but it was harder with my brother, especially when our mother became a vegetarian. He would makes himself sandwiches a lot when mom made tofu. I am now 27, pregnant and married, and I have surpassed the teacher - tsk tsking my mom when she buys stuff with too many ingredients she can`t pronounce! I am on my way to eating clean, have convinced my husband to incorporate minimum 2 vegetarian meals a week, we order an organic fruit and veggie basket and i make everything i can myself - bread, yogurt etc. My now 25yrs old brother went through his intense junk food phase and now he is working out and bitching at US about carbs and vitamins! My mum is very proud, and we are both eternally grateful to her for having established good eating habits in us when we were kids. I intend on doing the same for my family... I know their whining will eventually turn into thank yous!

and hey, sometimes its about compromise... my hubby eats fruit only when i cut it up and tupperware it in his lunch (what a kid!) and i do it gladly. He hates brown bread, so we buy the *hidden grain* type and I put raw oats and lots of bran in his banana chocolate chip muffins he loves me for making him - and he is aware of it! he eats tofu as long as its one of his 3 fav ways, and he just discovered he actually loves brussel sprouts! Something his mom never gave him before. I will never inflict my whole food - clean food need on him, but I also know that he is willing to try stuff and it consoles me that he will therefore eat healthy by default.

healthy eating, just like exercise is just too precious NOT to teach your children and the ones you love. Its like Math and times tables, shove it down their throats if you need to, because they WILL thank you later.



Good article - lots of ideas.

My spouse has developed better eating habits over the years and its because I prepared things that I liked and raved about so he would try them.  For years he would still eat pizza once a week and a PB & J sandwich once week for dinner and whine if he didn't get them.  Now, he could go a month with pizza – which we prefer with some veggies or plain cheese.  And I have learned that if he wants a sandwich fine - I'll make a salad or some homemade soup to go with it.

Soup (chicken or beef with vegetables, nna& #65279;vy bean or split pea) and salmon loaf or meatloaf (min ced onion ;s, celery᥿ 9;, carrot᥿ 9;s, bell peppe ;rs, wheat germ, oatmeal) are both good ways for us to get more veggies & healthyʌ 79; stuff in.  I do have to push to get in the healthier ones - more leafy greens and less starchy types.  We also eat spaghetti squash.  I steam the cut halves in the microwave for 20-30 minutes, then rake the strings out with a fork.  Heat up spaghetti sauce with mushrooms - no meat - and sprinkle with grated parmesaen cheese.  I also learned that eggplant (and other veggies) could be marinated in Italian dressing.  I use Good Seasons mix with double the red wine, balsamic or apple cider vinegar, more water, and real olive oil.  Marinate the veggies (or brush the eggplant slices) and place in a grill basket (the slices can go directly) onto a hot BBQ grill.  Soak some ears of corn while heating the coals and cook the corn in the husks.  Who won't eat those veggies and you can still do chicken, fish or meat on the grill, too.  



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