Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Manipulation on the Menu

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Manipulation on the Menu

Article excerpt

Byline: Breanna Wright and Denise Goodwin, Monash University

MOST of us know what sort of food we should eat to optimise our health and help avoid lifestyle diseases such as obesity and heart disease. But we don't stick to our ideal diets.

Part of the reason is that food producers and retailers spend a lot of money trying to influence our food choice toward more expensive and processed food, the sort we're overeating.

But several things can be done to encourage healthier eating.

We recently reviewed research investigating how to promote healthy eating when dining out.

The review found manipulating the environment in dining and shopping areas, as well as some behavioural techniques, can make healthy choices more likely.

Doing what's considered normal

Australians don't eat enough fruit or vegetables, and too many of us are overweight. Our diet choices are two out of the top three contributors to the burden of disease in Australia.

Humans get much information from watching the people around them, and it's important to us to fit in.

We do this and understand how to act by watching the language, posture and activities of others. These are social models or norms, and we get information about what is a normal diet by seeing what other people eat.

This is so strong that when we see people eating healthy foods in small portion sizes, we're more likely to choose lower kilojoule foods in smaller serves. This means we can influence our families, including our children and our colleagues, to eat better while reaping the benefits of eating better ourselves.

Organisations such as hospitals, staff canteens and schools can also harness the power of social norms by displaying healthy meals of an appropriate size as normal and pleasurable choices made by people like us.

Labelling that makes sense

Fortunately, the responsibility of food producers to provide measurements of the energy contained in foods they produce is well established. …

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