According to science, the best eaters have all the three things in common. (Photo: Getty Images)
Forget strict diets and resolutions. According to a new study published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, eating more nutritious foods on a daily basis can be as easy as following a three-step method that anyone “C.A.N.” follow.
Researchers at Cornell University analyzed the data from 112 studies that were focused on healthy eating behaviors. And here’s what they found: The “better” eaters made their choices thanks to health-conscious people in their lives who took charge of their surroundings — from their spouse to the owner of a restaurant to the manager of a supermarket. The one thing those individuals all did in common: They made the healthier options more convenient, attractive and normal. In other words, they used the C.A.N. approach.
“We find that if you want to eat better or even want your family to eat better, it’s much easier to change your immediate environment than it is to try to use willpower,” lead researcher Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Slim By Design and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, tells Yahoo Health. “With these three principles, there are endless changes that can be made to lead people — including ourselves — to eat healthier.”
In the study, Wansink discovered that when restaurants offered a healthy shrimp salad appetizer an enticing name, highlighted it on the menu and had the waitress announce it as a special, it became more convenient, attractive, and normal to order instead of something fatty, like deep-fried onion rings.
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School cafeterias increased the consumption of white milk over chocolate milk by 30 to 60 percent by taking such actions like putting the white milk in the front of the cooler (convenient), selling milk that was packaged in a shapely bottle (attractive) or giving the white milk at least half of the space in the cooler instead of a tiny corner (normal).
As for how someone can make these changes in their home, Wansink offers these examples:
1. Place a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen table or make sure you have single-servings of various proteins in the refrigerator. “First, you’ve just made these foods more convenient,” he states. “It’s much easier to put a fruit bowl on the table right next to where you place your car keys than it is to say, ‘Okay, everyday I’m going to eat more fruit.’ Now it’s just there automatically and you don’t have to think about it.”
2. Try to make these foods more attractive. “Perhaps buy a better brand of apples or the more expensive yogurt that you enjoy.”
3. Both of these actions will lead up to these foods seeming more normal.
“One of the reasons we don’t eat very healthy is because we don’t necessarily, in the back of our minds, see it as the ‘normal’ thing we do in our everyday lives,” he explains. “But all of a sudden, if the only foods we’re seeing in the front of the refrigerator are healthy ones, it sort of subconsciously makes us say to ourselves, ‘It must be normal to eat healthy food.’ Otherwise, it wouldn’t be there!”
A simple office strategy—move that candy dish. “We’re not saying to get rid of the dish, but if you move it just six feet away from your desk, you will eat, on average, about 125 fewer calories every work day,” he states. “We find that the typical person has Hershey Kisses on their desk and eats, on average, about 225 calories of Kisses a day. So by moving the dish six feet away, well, that number drops by about 100.” Why? Because you’ve made it a little less convenient to reach for, which can make the food seem a little less attractive and this distance between you and the candy will soon become more normal.
Wansink adds that this approach “c.a.n.” also work in the other direction. “Conversely, we want to do the opposite with less healthy foods,” he says. “For instance, we find that the typical American household has snacks in about four cupboards in their home. But if someone put those snacks in one cupboard and places the food way up high or way down low, what they’ve done is made the less healthy items, at the very least, less convenient, which means you’re more likely to eat less of it.”