How to Get Others to Eat Healthy Food
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.
Thank you, Dr. Wansink.
What tactics have you used to influence your loved ones to accept healthy food?