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Healthy Convenience: Nudging Students Toward Healthier Choices in Lunchroom


  • Andrew S. Hanks

    (Cornell University)

  • David R. Just

    (Cornell University Author Name: Laura E. Smith
    Cornell University)

  • Brian Wansink

    (Cornell University)


In the context of food, convenience is generally associated with less healthy foods. Given the reality of present-biased preferences, if convenience was associated with healthier foods and less healthy foods were less convenient, people would likely consume healthier foods. This study examines the application of this principle in a school lunchroom where healthier foods were made more convenient relative to less healthy foods. In the study, one of two lunch lines in a cafeteria was arranged so as to display only healthier foods and flavored milk. Trained field researchers collected purchase and consumption data before and after the conversion. Mean comparisons were used to identify differences in selection and consumption of healthier foods, less healthy foods, and chocolate milk. The results showed that sales of healthier foods increased by 18% and grams of less healthy foods consumed decreased by nearly 28%. Also, healthier foods’ share of total consumption increased from 33% to 36%. Lastly, we find that students increased their consumption of flavored milk, but the share of flavored milk consumed to total consumption did not increase. In summary, in a school lunchroom, a convenience line that offered only healthier food options nudged students to consume fewer unhealthy foods. This result has key implications for encouraging healthy behavior in public schools nation wide, cafeterias, and other food establishments.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew S. Hanks & David R. Just & Brian Wansink, 2012. "Healthy Convenience: Nudging Students Toward Healthier Choices in Lunchroom," Working Papers 03, Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.
  • Handle: RePEc:dys:benwps:03

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    Cited by:

    1. Ariun Ishdorj & Mary Kay Crepinsek & Helen H. Jensen, 2013. "Children's Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables: Do School Environment and Policies Affect Choices at School and Away from School?," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 35(2), pages 341-359.
    2. repec:eee:jfpoli:v:69:y:2017:i:c:p:207-217 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ferro, Gabrielle & Gupta, Sonam & Kropp, Jaclyn D., 2013. "The Effect of Pre-Selection and Visual Cues on Food Item Selection by Middle School Children," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150305, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Itzik Fadlon & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2017. "Family Health Behaviors," NBER Working Papers 24042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Graham, Hope E. & Vestal, Mallory K. & Guerrero, Bridget L., 2015. ""Go-Slow-Whoa!": Will Nutritional Information Influence Adolescent Food Choices and Lead to a Healthier Generation?," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 206007, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    6. Aneel Karnani & Brent McFerran & Anirban Mukhopadhyay, 2016. "The Obesity Crisis as Market Failure: An Analysis of Systemic Causes and Corrective Mechanisms," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(3), pages 445-470.
    7. Norbert Wilson, 2016. "When the Cupboards Are Bare: Nudging Food Pantry Clients to Healthier Foods," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 125-133.
    8. Gabrielyan, Gnel & Hanks, Drew S. & Hoy, Kathryn & Just, David R. & Wansink, Brian, 2017. "Who’s adopting the smarter lunchroom approach? Individual characteristics of innovative food service directors," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 72-80.
    9. Bertoni, M.; Corazzini, L.; Robone, S.;, 2017. "The Good Outcomes of Bad News. A Randomized Field Experiment on Formatting Breast Cancer Screening Invitations," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 17/27, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    10. Miller, Gabrielle F. & Gupta, Sonam & Kropp, Jaclyn D. & Grogan, Kelly A. & Mathews, Anne, 2016. "The effects of pre-ordering and behavioral nudges on National School Lunch Program participants’ food item selection," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 4-16.
    11. repec:bla:jconsa:v:51:y:2017:i:1:p:113-132 is not listed on IDEAS

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