Which healthy eating nudges work best? A meta-analysis of field experiments

Romain Cadario and Pierre Chandon

New study on nudges for shaping consumer behaviour towards healthier food choices looks at 299 results from 96 field experiments. The authors categorised the nudges into seven types, grouped into three categories: cognitive, affective and behavioural (outlined below). Useful conclusions for anyone hoping to support better diets, whether through nutrition labelling, workforce nutrition programmes or marketing of nutritious foods. 

Cognitive nudges
  • Descriptive nutritional labelling (e.g. Nutrition Facts label)

  • Evaluative nutritional labelling (e.g. Traffic light system)

  • Visibility enhancement (e.g. product placement at eye level or at checkout)
Affective nudges
  • Healthy eating calls (e.g. Suggestion from waiters or staff)

  • Pleasure appeals (e.g. Visually appealing or aspirational displays and descriptions) 

Behavioural nudges
  • Convenience enhancements (e.g. Set menus with fruit and veg as default option)
  • Size enhancements (e.g. Larger portion sizes for healthy foods, smaller portions for unhealthy foods)

The study found that behavioural nudges were significantly more effective than cognitive or affective nudges, with the potential to cut daily calorie consumption by about 320 kcal. The authors suggest that changing the size or portion of food that is served or sold is particularly effective because it does not require choice or collaboration. Affective nudges that positively present healthy eating options reduced calorie consumption by 129-172, and cognitive nudges coming in between 54-91 calories depending on the approach. 

In addition to the full study, one of the authors has put together a very helpful summary of the key findings: Which healthy eating nudges work best?


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This resource has been peer reviewed