Healthy Food: Leave it Out (Out in the Open that Is)

Go on a tour of your kitchen and dining room. What food is within arm’s reach? What if your arms are short, like a toddler’s? What if you are a teenager scavenging after basketball practice?

I used to think of putting away groceries in terms of my convenience. Now that some of my kids are old enough to serve themselves I started to rethink my cupboards and countertops.

In a study published in Environment and Behaviorthey tested to see if college students would eat more carrots and apples based on two elements: proximity and visibility.  They determined that when the produce was right next to the students (versus 2 meters away), the students ate more of each healthy food. When the produce was in a clear open bowl (versus an opaque covered bowl), the students only ate more apple slices. (The researchers were cute and discussed that apples are sweet, so they will always win over carrots.) The take home message: being near and looking at healthy food will increase consumption of healthy food. Cool.

I loved this study because it is a “DUH” study. It reminds me that my home should make healthy choices easy. What’s the secret to making the easiest choice the healthiest choice? Simple: Leave it out and make it visible.

Think of your table and countertops as “Prime Nutrition Real Estate.” They should house your fiber-filled fruits or nuts. Devote a shelf in your fridge for healthy snack options, too.

Luckily, our fridge’s vegetable crisper is perfect toddler height. I learned that my kids were reaping the benefits of leaving good produce accessible. Check out Middle E with his tasty red bell pepper. I was out in the garden when he came wandering out with his self-selected snack.

It isn’t cliché to leave a bowl of apples or bananas out on the table. It’s smart use of your nutrition real estate.


Read the full study here at the journal Environment & Behavior.

2 Comment

  1. Valerie says:

    Great thoughts that are definitely a “duh” but something I hadn’t really thought about before. Thanks for the tip; my kids and I will both benefit!

    1. Alli says:

      You are right about this being a “duh.” 🙂 Let us know if it works at your house in getting more fruits into your family!

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