Friday, March 18, 2011

Cornell Seminar: Wansink on food interventions

Wansink gave a seminar to the nutrition department this week which I tweeted about while it was ongoing. He discussed two somewhat related strands of research, one with the military trying to get people to eat more and one with schools trying to get students to eat less and better. The military's main solution has been to try to get the food to taste better; schools (naturally) rely on education. Neither has been overly effective and he went in to find out a)why and b) what to do about it. Here are my notes from his talk:

It’s not nutrition until somebody eats it. Reasons for poor nutrition are simple, but only after we figure it out. 

In the army, the primary thing massive undernutrition affected was shooting accuracy. Army food scored 7.5/9 for taste, better than TGI Fridays. Observations: if it’s opened, it’s eaten; weird smells reduce appetite; no comfort areas; and they don’t drink enough.
#1 – Solution #1: TV dinner packaging. If their vegetables fall out when they open other foods, they eat them.
#2 – Packing material infused with smells of good food.
#3 – Familiar branding was comforting. They suggested: try M&Ms. The army tried peanut butter M&Ms which wouldn't melt, but that attracts sniper fire because of its bright orange packaging. Now army won’t try it again.
#4 – couldn’t solve.

Daily school salad bar sales increased 200-300% in days by moving the salad bar to the center of the room. People buy first thing 11% more often, so they moved broccoli to first ... and sales dropped 40%. Entrees worked as expected.
People want what they can see, so instead of removing ice cream, just cover the glass door with paper. Sales down 28%. Saying “Do you want salad with that?” doubled salad sales. She held on to the plate with their pizza until they answered, increasing likelihood even more.
Most changes are among people who only occasionally consume fruits and vegetables. Kids who never eat them aren’t affected and kids who eat them regularly aren’t much changed. So it’s marginal users.

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