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Pre-ordering lunch increases healthier choices among students

Last Updated: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 11:05

Washington: Researchers at the Cornell Centre for Behavioural Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Centre) have found that pre-ordering lunch would nudge students to make healthier choices.

In two upstate New York elementary schools, students use an electronic pre-ordering system to order lunch in the morning.

Fourteen teachers agreed to enrol their classes in a four-week study to test the effects of pre-ordering lunch.

These classrooms were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions - 1) stop pre-ordering for the 3rd week and resume for the 4th week, 2) stop pre-ordering for the 4th week, or 3) continue pre-ordering for all four weeks.

A significant number of healthier choices were made when students pre-ordered lunch.

When pre-ordering was available, 29.4 percent of students ordered the healthier lunch entree compared to 15.3 percent when no pre-ordering took place.

When ordering in the lunch line, hunger mixed with the aromas and sight of unhealthy foods won out in spontaneous food decisions: healthy entree selection was reduced by 48 percent and less healthy entree choices increased by 21 percent.

Simply by changing the decision environment, students were nudged to select healthier entrees.


First Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 11:05

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