Monitor on Psychology - October 2011 - (Page 47)
Dr. Brian Wansink is working with school systems to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer desserts.
In one study, he and his colleagues served participants dinner, accompanied by a glass of “two-buck Chuck” Trader Joe’s wine. They told half the participants that the wine was a new California label. The other half of the participants were told they were drinking North Dakota wine. Not only did the participants who thought they were drinking a California wine rate the wine as tasting better, they actually rated the food as tasting better as well, and the chef as having more training. It might seem depressing to learn that we are so out of tune with our own tastes, and that we can’t rely on our stomachs to know when we’re sated. But the good news is that once we understand our hard-wired eating behavior, we can change our environments in ways that make us eat better, Wansink said. For example, buying smaller plates and glasses. After he did the study that showed that bigger plates and glasses make people consume more, he said, “I’m pretty sure everyone in the lab went out and bought new ones.” Now, Wansink is aiming to bring his research to one of the front lines in the fight against obesity: school lunch rooms. Through a project he’s begun called the smarter lunchroom initiative (www.smarterlunchrooms.org), he’s working with
OCTOBER 2011 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY
school systems around the country to make simple tweaks that will encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer desserts. In one school cafeteria, for example, he found that food servers dumped fruits into an unattractive metal bin near the steam tables. He bought a cheap fruit basket and piled the fruit artistically inside, and brought in a desk lamp to light up the display. Fruit sales more than doubled. In another school cafeteria, he moved the salad bar from an isolated spot to a prime location next to the cash registers. Salad bar sales went up more than 200 percent. Such simple solutions could be an effective and cheap tool to change students’ eating habits, Wansink believes. Now, he and his colleagues are thinking big: They’ve recently received a $1 million federal grant to bring their ideas from the lab to the school system, and they’re hoping to have as many as 35,000 schools on board by 2015. n To watch a video of Wansink discussing his top tips for healthier eating, click here.
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