Cafeteria strategies that may improve your diet

woman in a supermarket reading nutrition information and comparing two products

Red light, green light — we all know what those mean. And when Harvard researchers added traffic-light symbols to packages and menus in a hospital cafeteria, they found that diners bought healthier foods with fewer calories. The findings were published online July 10, 2019, by JAMA Network Open. Scientists first tracked the cafeteria purchases of hospital employees for a few months.

Then they labeled foods with symbols indicating if a food was healthy (green), less healthy (yellow), or unhealthy (red); moved unhealthy foods to less accessible locations in the cafeteria; and tracked purchases for another two years. About 5,700 people bought food during that time. When researchers linked calorie information to purchases, they found a 6% decrease in calories per purchase over two years, including a 23% decrease in calories from the least healthy foods.

This builds on previous research that found sales of red-stickered items dropped by 4% and sales of green-stickered items grew by 5% during the study. Can you try this at home? Maybe not the traffic-light stickers. “But making it harder to access unhealthy foods gives you enough time to think about your choice before eating something that is not consistent with your goals,” says lead author Dr. Anne Thorndike, who specializes in obesity treatment and prevention at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Strategies include having a drawer for the unhealthy foods, placing unhealthy snacks high on a shelf, and having a goto’ shelf for healthy snacks.”

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 NIV

And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2 NIV

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. Psalm 94:18 NIV

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 NIV

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11 NIV

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them. John 14:21 NIV

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.1 John 4:11 NIV 

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 NIV

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 NIV

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Psalm 86:5 NIV

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