Behavioral Economic Concepts To Encourage Healthy Eating In Student Cafeterias
Changing small factors that influence consumer choice may lead to healthier eating within controlled settings, such as school cafeterias. This report describes a behavioral experiment in a college cafeteria to assess the effects of various payment options and menu selection methods on food choices… College students who preselected their meals from a menu board made significantly different food choices than students who ordered their meals while viewing the foods in line. [Summary excerpted from report]
One’s eating environment, including social atmosphere, distractions, and even lighting can affect people’s food choices. By understanding these and other factors that can influence food choices, cafeteria administrators may be able to promote and encourage healthier food choices in school meal programs.
- College students who preselected meals from a menu board before seeing the food choice made less healthy choices than those who could see the food. Viewing led to significantly greater consumption of healthy foods. However, in some cases (for example brownies), viewing of less healthy items increased demand.
- Form of payment also affected food choices. Those paying with cash made healthier food choices, as those with unrestricted methods were more likely to include soda and desserts, for example. This suggests that it might be possible to change behavior by altering accepted payment methods for different foods.