It is all psychology. Major grocery stores around the world use tricks to lure customers into buying more.
The Psychology of Food Choices
From the lighting and the music to where the different merchandise is placed, grocery stores are designed to entice the buyer. The produce section, for example, usually is nearest to the entrance not because they are the first items that consumers pick up. Their vibrant colors, enhanced by the light set up, will whet the appetite. The fragrant smells from the bakery, which is also strategically placed by the door, will reel consumers in.
The layout of the grocery store is also designed to make customers spend as much time as possible inside. It ensures that people walk through every aisle, seeing more items. The most popular products are usually placed as far away from the entrance as possible so that customers will have to walk across the entire store before they pick up milk and cheese — two products used in almost every household.
There are other strategies that affect nutrition. The paper titled Cafeteria Assessment for Elementary Schools (CAFES) makes easy to implement recommendations that will encourage children to make healthier choices. It includes placing fresh fruits by the checkout, using smaller bowls and plate sizes, and improving the presentation of menus and food. It also revealed that an attractive cafeteria design that has minimal noise and crowding, has better food storage, and uses bright lighting leads to better eating habits.
But, home is where the majority of food choices are made. What if psychological tricks can be applied at home to encourage each member of the family to eat healthy foods?
It is hard to resist potato chips when it is within reach. If you keep the junk foods in the vanity cabinets, where members of the household will not see them every time they head to the kitchen for a snack, they will be more likely to get something more nutritious.
It is a simple but effective trick. The sight of foods alone — especially those that are high in sugar, salt, and fat — tends to stir the appetite. It automatically triggers hunger and cravings, making it impossible to resist eating.
So, even if you have them at home, avoid having them on display. They will only encourage unhealthy consumption.
Swap Junk with Nutritious Options
Now that junk foods are out of sight and, therefore, out of mind, the next step is to put the healthy snacks on display. Just like in supermarkets, having fresh fruits and vegetables front and center will induce hunger and craving for healthy snacks.
For produce that needs to be refrigerated, choose to keep it eye-level. It should be one of the first things that people see when they open the refrigerator in search of a snack. Keep the fresh fruits and vegetables in clear glass containers. They need to be visible. People in the house who do not regularly eat healthy snacks are unlikely to actively search for fruits and vegetables.
Keep the food that you want people in the household to eat to be accessible.
Play Music in the Kitchen
Cooking is not always fun. It requires time and a lot of work. So, sometimes, it is much easier to fry chicken nuggets or order out than expend energy making healthy meals.
If there is music playing, then it would entertain you and turn the chore into an enjoyable activity. It is healthy to add other electronics in the kitchen. Having a Bluetooth speaker allows you to listen to your favorite songs or a podcast while you chop vegetables and wait for the soup to boil.
However, be mindful of what type of music you listen to. One study found that when consumers shopped in grocery stores and restaurants with loud and upbeat music, they chose unhealthy foods. Meanwhile, when soft ambient music was played, they purchased healthy meals. Loud music stimulates people physically, making them feel excited and less inhibited. Soft music relaxes, allowing the brain to really think about what they want to eat.
Have Measuring Tools Ready
Portions are difficult to estimate. It is easy to go overboard, make more pasta than you intend, and, therefore, overeat. If you are using measuring cups and spoons, you can have better control of your portions.
Do not keep them in the cupboard farthest away from where you do food prep. Keep them within reach so that you are more likely to use them.
The consumption of food does not always happen because people are hungry. Other factors influence it such as boredom or cravings. Following these strategies will help curb unhealthy food choices at home.