Are you tired of pleading with your kids to eat healthier?
Do you wish you had more willpower to avoid those high fat, high sugar and high calorie foods?
Like many large corporations, Google has a number of ways for employees to satisfy their desire for “munchies.” In fact, they had built a reputation for “fattening up” staffers with food on demand at many of their office locations.
But recently they have begun using what they call “nudges” to help employees eat better. These nudges are just simple, subtle cures that prompt people to make better, healthier choices. The good news is that you can use these same techniques to help yourself and your family eat healthier too.
What’s important is that the company didn’t mount a public campaign to teach employees how to make healthy choices, nor did they “force” them. Instead, they just made simple changes to the way certain foods were selected, prepared and displayed. And these changes had a profound impact on how employees ate. They can have that same impact on how your family eats too.
Would you like to get your whole family craving healthy foods? Here are 5 of the nudges Google now uses and how you can use them yourself:
Nudge #1: Out of sight, out of mind. The company used to have M&M’s in large glass jars around the office for employees to much on. Now, the same M&M’s are in opaque jars with lids. “Hiding” them away reduces the urge to eat, and including a lid on the jar requires extra effort to grab them. This one change reduced calorie intake from candy by almost 10 percent.
How you can use it: At work and at home, if you have candy sitting out, put it in an opaque jar with a lid. To go one step further, switch from soft, chewy candies like M&M’s or caramels to hard, individually wrapped candies. These take longer to eat, and so reduce the total number consumed.
Nudge #2: Feature healthy foods. Studies show that, when people are hungry, they tend to eat whatever they see first. So, Google moved the salad bar to the front, so that it’s visible when you first enter the cafeteria. They also moved desserts to a corner where they are easy to miss.
How you can use it: Place healthier choices on the middle shelves of your pantry and refrigerator. These are the shelves that most people “search” first when looking for something to eat. Place less healthy choices on bottom or top shelves where they are less likely to be seen.
Nudge #3: Size down. Studies show that people tend to fill their plate with food, no matter what size the plate is. Google now places smaller plates in front, so that employees have to reach over the small ones to get a large one. If they pick up a plate without paying attention, they are likely to get one of the smaller ones. People that use smaller plates tend to eat less overall.
How you can use it: If you can, try using smaller plates for family meals. If that’s not possible, you can plate food in the kitchen rather than placing it on the table and letting everyone server themselves. By plating food away from the table, you can reduce portion sizes while placing food so that it “fills” the plate.
Nudge #4: Bite-size desserts. At Google, most desserts are now sized so that they can be eaten in 3 to 5 bites. Studies show that most people are fully satisfied after the first 3 to 5 bites of a dessert. Of course, employees can go back and get another serving, but that requires added effort.
How you can use it: Serve smaller portions for dessert. Instead of cutting a pie into 6 or 8 portions, try cutting it into 10 or 12. Bake cupcakes instead of whole cakes. Buy ice cream bars or small cups instead of half gallon boxes or gallon tubs.
Nudge #5: Make water easy to get. In break rooms, Google used to have water on tap (near the sink) and soft drinks in the refrigerator. Now, bottled water is at eye level in the cooler while soda has been moved to the bottom. This small change increased water intake by almost 50 percent!
How you can use it: If you don’t want the added expense of bottled water, then place a pitcher of water in your refrigerator at eye level. Move sodas to the bottom shelf, or better yet, take them out of the refrigerator all together. You can jazz up water by adding a couple of lemon or lime slices, cut strawberries, or sliced cucumber.
The approach Google has taken shows that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean a major change to your lifestyle. These are only small changes, but they can nudge you and your family to make healthier choices each day. Try one or all of them. Your family may not even notice, but they will be eating healthier. And they will be developing healthy habits that can last a lifetime!
Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at www.HealthFamilyFuture.com. Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You might also want to read: Healthy Kids = Healthy Adults, Family Meals: It’s About More than Food, Healthy Kids: Every Bite Counts