Offering variety: A subtle manipulation to promote healthy food choice throughout the day

Rachel J. Burns, Alexander J Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Providing a variety of food generally increases consumption and enjoyment. This effect is typically associated with unhealthy behavior (e.g., overindulgence at a buffet) and studied during a single meal. Two studies tested whether this effect can be leveraged in a subtle, simple manipulation to promote healthy food choices over the course of a day. Method: In Studies 1 and 2, 188 and 187 participants, respectively, chose between a sweet and a piece of fruit in the afternoon. The fruit was either the same as or different from fruit that was selected in the morning; choice was not given in the morning. Study 1 tested this effect in the domain of expressed preferences and Study 2 examined actual choice. Results: In both studies, a second piece of fruit was more likely to be selected in the afternoon if it was different from fruit that was selected in the morning. Conclusions: These results illustrate how a robust effect that is typically associated with unhealthy outcomes can be harnessed to promote healthy food choices and underscore the importance of conceptualizing eating as a series of interrelated behavioral decisions. This work has implications for applied settings, such as cafeterias, and is distinguished from other simple structural manipulations by its focus on sustaining healthy food choice over the course of the day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-570
Number of pages5
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume34
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Keywords

  • Eating
  • Food choice
  • Variety

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