Promoting Healthy Eating Behaviors by Incentivizing Exploration of Healthy Alternatives

Front Nutr. 2021 Jun 15;8:658793. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.658793. eCollection 2021.


Incentive-based intervention programs aimed at promoting healthy eating behaviors usually focus on incentivizing repeating the desired behavior. Unfortunately, even when effective, these interventions are often short-lived and do not lead to a lasting behavioral change. We present a new type of intervention program focused on incentivizing exploration of new healthy alternatives rather than incentivizing repeated healthy behaviors. This intervention aims to help participants find long-lasting "personal treasures" -new foods that are both healthy and tasty for them. Our field study included a final sample of 48 students with low or medium daily consumption of fresh salads. Participants in the control group received a fixed payment for completing the program, while the participants in the incentivized exploration group received a lower fixed fee for completing the task and a bonus for each new salad they tried. Results show that participants in the incentivized exploration group reported eating more salads even 1 year after the program ended compared to the participants in the control group. Though preliminary, our results paint a promising picture for the successful application of incentivizing exploration interventions to promote healthy lifestyle.

Keywords: behavioral change; decisions from experience; diet; eating behavior; exploration; healthy lifestyle; salads; underweighting of rare events.