Lunch Time Cafeteria Hacks for Better Eating

Lunch Time Cafeteria Hacks for Better Eating
(Photo by McClatchy-Tribune)

Can a few simple behavior changes make for a healthier cafeteria experience?  Master’s of innovation, Google thinks so.  With help from their in-house behavioral PhD, Google reconfigured their cafeteria with visual queues to make employees more “healthy and happy”.  You can benefit from the science and put a few of these changes to work for your own lunchtime happiness.

Seefood.  One of the first changes started with the replacement of the clear, hanging M&M candy dispensers.  Opaque bins with hard candy in them were used as alternative.  Having no idea what kind of candy lies in the dispenser stifles the attraction.  The simple act of putting the candy into the jar deters most people.  The result was a 9% drop in caloric intake from candy.  Steer clear of the vending machines.  Just look away....

Salad first.  Putting the theory to another test, Google positioned its salad bars up front and center.  When hungry, people tend to go for the first food that is available.  Start at the salad bar and it will naturally be your first choice.

Smaller plates.  By placing a reminder near the plates that said people with bigger plates tend to eat more - the cafeteria increased small plate usage by 50%.  Smaller plates translate to smaller meals which is an easy way to eat better.  Go for the small plate.

Out of sight! When soda bottles were transferred to the bottom rung of the beverage shelf and replaced with water bottles, more people just took the water bottles instead of the more hidden soda bottles in the bottom.

Color-code. Green and red notes also encourage or discourage employees food choices.  A green note attached to a food means that you can eat as much as you want.  A red note instinctively indicate “danger” and is associated with desserts to remind people to go easy on the sugary stuff.  You may not want to bring a stack of post-it notes to the cafe, but an internal game of “red-light green-light” while loading up your tray could make a difference here.

Do you have any cafeteria better eating tips learned from experience? Share in the comments section.

Josha Krueger is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, an AFPA Sports Nutrition Consultant, and owner of Kru Strength + Fitness.

Filed under: Nutrition

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