For most of us, when we think about eating a healthier diet, we automatically think about what we have to cut out. But with such a negative approach to eating healthily, it is no wonder that about 95% of ‘diets’ fail.
Now, researchers at Cornell University have come up with a different approach to eating healthily, known as the CAN approach. The premise is that when healthy food is Convenient, Attractive, and Normal, people are more likely to chose it. This research, which reviewed more than 100 studies looking at healthy eating behaviors, confirms that a positive approach is far more likely to succeed when someone is trying to change their eating behaviors to become healthier.
The three crucial parts to this approach are that the food must be (1) Convenient, i.e. visible and easy to reach, (2) Attractive, or enticingly displayed, and (3) Normal, that is, made to seem like the obvious, or everyday choice.
So how can you put this into practice? The researchers in the study have some great tips, including the following:
- Place a fruit bowl in a part of the house where people walk by it regularly (but wash all fruit before putting it in the fruit bowl. That way you can just grab it and run).
- Make sure you always have at least two choices in the fruit bowl.
- Keep a small bowl of fruit near your car keys so you can grab a healthy snack on the way out.
- Wash and cut vegetables that you can snack on and keep them visible in the middle of the fridge.
- Offer children tempting salad dressings with fun names to encourage them to eat salad.
- Put salad bowls on the dinner table everyday to make salad a ‘normal’ part of the meal.
- Don’t forget that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables have as much, if not more, nutrition than their fresh counterparts.
- Make less-healthy food options LESS convenient, LESS attractive, and LESS normal by, for example, keeping cookies in the laundry room.
Typically we make more than 200 decisions about food EVERY DAY, so most of them are instinctive rather than well thought out. The key to making those decisions healthy is to make the healthy options Convenient, Attractive, and Normal. By doing this, you can change your instinctive eating behaviors to become more healthful.
Wansink, Brian (2015). Change Their Choice! Changing Behavior Using the CAN Approach and Activism Research. Psychology & Marketing, forthcoming.