How We Can Promote Healthy Food Habits

December 29, 2023

Many of us struggle with unhealthy eating habits. Even if we are motivated to eat healthy foods such as fruits, many of us do it for a few days and quit. I’ve been there myself, more than once. I remember buying apples and keeping them in the fridge, only to find out two weeks later that they had rotted.

We humans are generally lazy and tend to reach for the food that is most easily accessible. We often keep unhealthy snacks and soft drinks on kitchen shelves where they are within easy reach. However, this only reinforces our unhealthy habits. I improved my eating habits after reading about the behavioral experiment conducted by Dr Anne Thorndike.

Anne Thorndike, a Doctor at a Hospital in Boston (United States), had a brilliant idea. She believed she could improve the eating habits of thousands of hospital staff and patients without changing their willpower or motivation in the slightest way. In fact, she did not plan on talking to them at all. Anne designed a six-month study to alter the ‘choice architecture’ of the hospital cafeteria. She started by changing how drinks were arranged in the cafeteria. Originally, the refrigerators located next to the cash registers in the cafeteria were filled with only soft drinks. Anne added water as an option to each one. Additionally, she placed baskets of bottled water next to the food stations throughout the cafeteria. Soft drinks were still in primary refrigerators, but water was now available at all drink locations. Over the next three months, the number of soft drinks sales at the hospital dropped by 11.4 percent. Meanwhile, sales of bottled water increased by 25.8 percent. They made similar adjustments with fruits and green tea and saw similar results. Nobody had said a word to anyone eating there.

Even I set up a similar strategy to strengthen my habit of eating more dried fruits such as walnuts and almonds. I placed a big jar of walnuts and almonds in front of our television. Whenever I switched on the TV to watch shows on Netflix in the evening, I ended up eating more walnuts and almonds (even though I dislike their taste). This helped me break my habit of eating fried chips and drinking soft drinks while watching television every day. At work, I placed fruits and salad next to my laptop, which led me to eat more healthy food.

I’m confident that you and your family will stick to a healthy diet if you attempt this strategy by rearranging your refrigerator and kitchen shelves. Place healthy foods such as fruits, yogurt, and cheese near the front, and all other items, such as fried food, cakes, and sugar cereals, in the corner. Over several months, you’ll ultimately purchase wholesome snacks.



By Wilson Alex Saldanha, Dubai
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