Using traffic light labels to improve food selection in recreation and sport facility eating environments

Appetite. 2015 Aug;91:329-35. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.057. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


Many recreation and sports facilities have unhealthy food environments, however managers are reluctant to offer healthier foods because they perceive patrons will not purchase them. Preliminary evidence indicates that traffic light labeling (TLL) can increase purchase of healthy foods in away-from-home food retail settings. We examined the effectiveness of TLL of menus in promoting healthier food purchases by patrons of a recreation and sport facility concession, and among various sub-groups. TLL of all menu items was implemented for a 1-week period and sales were assessed for 1-week pre- and 1-week post-implementation of TLL (n = 2101 transactions). A subset of consumers completed a survey during the baseline (n = 322) and intervention (n = 313) periods. We assessed change in the proportion of patrons' purchases that were labeled with green, yellow and red lights from baseline to the TLL intervention, and association with demographic characteristics and other survey responses. Change in overall revenues was also assessed. There was an overall increase in sales of green (52.2% to 55.5%; p < 0.05) and a reduction in sales of red (30.4% to 27.2%; p < 0.05) light items from baseline to the TLL period. The effectiveness of TLL did not differ according to any of the demographic or other factors examined in the survey. Average daily revenues did not differ between the baseline and TLL periods. TLL of menus increased purchase of healthy, and reduced purchase of unhealthy foods in a publicly funded recreation and sport facility, with no loss of revenue. Policymakers should consider extending menu labeling laws to public buildings such as recreation and sports facilities to promote selection of healthier items.

Keywords: Concession; Dietary behavior; Healthy eating; Out-of-home eating environment; Recreation and sport facility; Traffic light labeling.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Commerce
  • Diet / standards*
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Labeling*
  • Food Preferences*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recreation*
  • Restaurants*
  • Sports*
  • Young Adult