This post is also available in Dutch.
At the beginning of the new year, many people attempt to live a healthier life. After a few weeks, it turns out to be quite difficult to leave those tasty, unhealthy snacks behind. But luckily there are plenty of scientifically proven “tricks” to make these new healthy habits a little easier on yourself.
These tricks that subconsciously change your behavior are also called nudges in science. Nudging is already widely used by companies. For example, fruits and vegetables are often at the beginning of the supermarket, and the Nutriscore helps you choose healthier options consciously and unconsciously. In addition to these nudges in the outside world, there are several similar tricks you can apply yourself at home.
You may have noticed something about antique dinnerware: It’s a lot smaller. In fact, over the past few decades, our plates and cutlery have gotten increasingly larger. And the bigger the plate, the more you eat! A well-known experiment is the bottomless soup bowl experiment, in which people were divided into two groups: one group was given soup in a normal soup bowl and the people in the other group were given soup in a soup bowl that (without their knowledge) was constantly being refilled. Thus, this soup bowl never gets empty. All participants were instructed to eat as much as they wanted. It turned out that the participants with the bottomless bowl ate up to 73% more than those with the normal soup bowl, while their sense of satiety (so how full they felt) was equally high. In a similar experiment, people who had eaten from a bottomless soup bowl were found to be just as likely to get hungry again as those with a normal soup bowl, even though they ate more. So you subconsciously use the contents of your dinnerware to estimate how much you have eaten and how full you feel. Using small cutlery can also help: people who eat more slowly, with fewer large bites, eat less but are as satiated as people who eat quickly.
What you see is what you eat
Things that stand out draw your attention, and this is also true for tasty snacks. In a Dutch study, nudges were applied in 30 different company canteens in different ways: fruit was placed in plain sight, while unhealthy products were placed in the background. Footsteps drawn on the floor led the way to the salad bar. These small changes led to more sales of fruit, healthy sandwiches, and salads.
At home, you probably won’t stick footstep stickers on the floor toward the fruit bowl but there are similar things you can do. For example, buy a brightly colored eye-catching fruit bowl and put it in plain sight. Then make sure that the cookie jar, on the other hand, is always out of sight in the cupboard. This will make you just a little more likely to grab a tangerine instead of a cookie.
Making healthy choices is easier said than done. Nudges can be just the push in the right direction. They may help you keep your resolutions just a little bit longer!