Strategies for Promoting Healthy Eating

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A global switch to diets with less meat and more fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives, reduce emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion by 2050, according to an academic study. So, more so now than ever strategies to encourage healthy eating are vital.  

table-of-sustainable-food

A global switch to diets with less meat and more fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives, reduce emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion by 2050, according to an academic study.1 So, more so now than ever strategies to encourage healthy eating are vital. 

With a high proportion of UK meals eaten and/or ordered out of home, the foodservice sector can play an important role, helping diners to choose healthier, more sustainable options by making a move towards sustainable menus. We’ve picked some of the most effective techniques to help food operators achieve this through small changes to their menus and operations.  

What are sustainable menus? 

The need to move to more sustainable diets and sustainable food is a growing priority across the foodservice industry. However, knowing where, when, and how to start making a difference can be a tricky task. One place to start is by creating sustainable menus, which provide unique guidance for the foodservice industry and brings together optimal food choices, trends in consumer preferences, and impacts on environmental shifts. Sustainable menus are great strategies for promoting healthy eating, at the benefit of the environment.  

Promote sustainable dishes and ingredients 

Spotlight plant-based daily specials, meal deals and promotions. Highlight green provenance stories and sustainability credentials with simple messaging and certifications. Place healthy, greener products prominently, to increase uptake, all these strategies to encourage healthy eating, will help make sustainable menus more effective and interesting. 

Get creative with menu descriptors 

Just one extra word can turn an overlooked dish into a bestseller, so use enticing descriptions to sell more sustainable dishes, make your sustainable menus more eye catching and interesting. Simple descriptors can increase sales by more than a quarter2, and act as strategies for promoting healthy eating. In fact, renaming previously ignored veggie burritos ‘Big Bad Bean Burritos’ turned them into a bestseller. Food behaviouralist Professor Brian Wansink, who conducted this research into descriptors concluded that the most powerful include: 

  • sensory words describing texture, taste or smell 
  • nostalgic words with positive associations 
  • geographic names creating associations to places 

Provenance descriptors can also be particularly effective, especially for unique or locally sourced ingredients, which is another great option for strategies to encourage healthy eating, by making it interesting and provoking for the customers. 

NB: If space on a menu is limited, stories can be told by staff and expanded via QR codes, websites and social media. 

Highlight sustainable options on menus 

Logos, icons, boxes and bold fonts draw the eye and increase sales, and putting sustainable, healthy, high-margin items in high-profile boxes is a great way to increase sales and profits3, as well as to promote strategies to encourage healthy eating. One chain found that a salad became a bestseller when it was moved to a new superfood section. 4 And putting greener options first, or at the top of a selection of house favourites, can also be effective. 

Use psychology and nudges 

Footprint’s Designed with Health in Mind report advocates getting “inside customers’ minds to guide unconscious food decisions”. Just knowing that people are making green choices encourages others to conform to eating healthier. For example, when contract caterer CH&Co put signs on the tables that told customers that the majority of other diners took a vegetable with their meal, vegetable sales rose.5 You can also create a halo effect: making people feel good about themselves by linking positive associations to sustainable choices on your sustainable menus. 

Guide sustainable choices 

Make your offering sustainable by default so that, whatever customers choose, it is as sustainable as possible and as well gives way to strategies for promoting healthy eating. This can include making options more plant-based, taking unsustainable items off the menu, choosing sustainable ingredients and suppliers, cooking seasonally, and designing sustainable menus and promotions that reduce food and packaging waste.  

Sustainable menus reflect the decisions to make a difference to the planet and reduce the carbon footprint. Try thinking beyond the food and consider ways to train staff and business to think and be more sustainable. 

To read Footprint’s Designed with Health in Mind report, visit https://www.compass-group.co.uk/media/2843/designed-with-health-in-mind-may-2017.pdf  

 

  1.  Springmann, M., Godfray, H.C.J., Rayner, M. and Scarborough, P., (2016). Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(15), pp.4146-4151.
  2.  Wansink, B. (2014) Slim by Design: Mindless eating solutions for everyday life. London: Hay House UK
  3. Footprint (2017) Designed with Health in Mind
  4. Footprint (2017) Designed with Health in Mind
  5. Footprint (2017) Designed with Health in Mind

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