Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine what creating strong visual cues for food might do for your eating habits. Placing a simple, attractive bowl of fruit on the counter instead of stowing the fruit out of sight in a refrigerator drawer could make the difference in your quest to eat “5 a day.”

This is one example of a healthy habit identified in a recent Cornell University analysis of 112 studies focused on healthy eating behaviors. The analysis led to the acronym CAN, a reminder that people can boost good eating habits by making healthy foods more Convenient (make them easy to see, simple to reach and ready to consume); Attractive (make them look enticing); and Normal (make them an obvious choice).

“A healthy diet can be as easy as making the healthiest choice the most convenient, attractive and normal,” said Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Slim by Design and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “With these three principles, there are endless changes that can be made to lead people . . . to eat healthier,” wrote Wansink in a summary of the article.

He added, “For instance, if a school wants children to drink more white milk than chocolate milk, they can make white milk more convenient (put it in the front of the cooler); more attractive (sell it in a shapely bottle); or more normal (give it half of the cooler space instead of a small corner of the cooler).” And it works. In previous studies conducted by Wansink, each of these changes increased white-milk consumption by 30%–60% in schools.

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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