Want your spouse or grandchildren to eat a nutritious snack? Keep a bowl of colorful and attractive fruit in a prominent spot in the kitchen. Wondering why nobody grabs the grapes you so proudly purchased last week? Did you rinse them, cut big bunches into smaller ones, and place them on the middle shelf of the refrigerator, or keep the bag hidden away in the bottom drawer?
Sounds obvious, but these are strategies we seldom think about to help others make nutritious food choices.
Proper Nutrition–Important at Any Age
Eating healthfully is critically important at both ends of the age spectrum—when we’re young, and when we’re older. Proper nutrition promotes a healthy immune system, strong muscles and bones, and proper brain growth and maintenance, to name a few benefits. But if you’re the nutrition gatekeeper for your family, it can be an endless struggle to encourage others to eat more healthfully.
Now Science Can Help
A new study from Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, analyzed results of 112 studies regarding healthy eating behavior. What he discovered is powerful in its simplicity: we can encourage others to make the healthiest food choice if these items are convenient, attractive, and normal. Wansink has coined the acronym CAN for this easy but effective approach.
- Convenient choices are within reach, not hidden, and conveniently sized (for example, baby carrots versus whole carrots).
- Attractive foods are fresh and colorful, offered with tempting accompaniments, and given clever names (for example, a “garden fresh salad” is more appealing than “house salad”).
- Normal foods appear like the obvious choice. They are offered frequently and as a regular part of the family’s cuisine.
Put the CAN Method to Work for Your Family
Here are 10 ways you can easily entice folks of all ages to make more frequent healthy food choices:
1) Offer to prepare a healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner for others.
2) Place low-sugar, high-fiber foods in front of the higher-sugar, less healthy alternatives in your pantry.
3) Quarter or slice an apple, and peel an orange before serving.
4) Pull healthy snacks (fresh fruit and vegetables, or string cheese) out of drawers in the refrigerator, and keep them on the middle or upper shelves.
5) Serve raw veggies with a low-fat salad dressing, a Greek yogurt-based dip, or hummus.
6) When shopping with grandchildren, keep them in the cart so they’re less likely to reach impulsively for the high-sugar, low-nutrient foods often marketed to consumers of short stature.
7) When introducing kids to new foods, do so without a lot of fanfare, and always model good eating habits by enjoying the items, yourself.
8) Follow the lead of the big food manufacturers and invent a clever name for healthy foods. (Remember “ants on a log”–raisins, peanut butter, and a stalk of celery?).
9) Don’t unintentionally hide healthy foods or assume others will remember you bought them; be mindful of how you place foods in all storage units.
10) Don’t force people to “work” for healthy foods. Take the extra time to make these foods “grab-ready” before they’re stashed away (for example, pre-cube melons into bite-size pieces, rinse strawberries and place them in a clear bowl on the refrigerator shelf, or pour some nuts into an attractive container and leave it next to your fruit bowl on the counter).
What have you done recently to encourage others to make healthy foods choices, consciously or unconsciously?