Nudging healthy food choices: a field experiment at the train station

J Public Health (Oxf). 2016 Jun;38(2):e133-7. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv096. Epub 2015 Jul 17.


Background: Recognizing the mindless nature of many food decisions, it has been suggested that attempts to increase healthy eating should not focus on convincing people what is 'right' but rather aim to adjust the environment such that people are automatically directed toward healthy choices. This study investigated a nudge aiming to promote healthy food choices in train station snack shops.

Methods: The nudge involved a repositioning of food products: healthy foods were placed at the cash register desk, while keeping unhealthy products available elsewhere in the shop. Three snack shops were included: a control condition; a nudge condition repositioning healthy products and a nudge + disclosure condition employing the same nudge together with an explanatory sign. Next to examining its effectiveness during 1 week, the study assessed customers' acceptance of the nudge.

Results: Controlling for a baseline week, more healthy (but not fewer unhealthy) products were sold in both nudge conditions, with no difference between the nudge and the nudge + disclosure condition. A majority of customers reported positive attitudes toward the nudge.

Conclusions: Repositioning healthy foods is a simple, effective and well-accepted nudge to increase healthy purchases. Moreover, disclosing its purpose does not impact on effectiveness.

Keywords: food choices; healthy eating; nudging.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Railroads*
  • Young Adult