Monday, December 09, 2019

#IfYouServeItWeWillEatIt Vegetarian Conference Food Nudge RCT Edition

As I've noted before (usually in the context of soda and junk food) if you serve it, we will eat it, even if the 'we' are a bunch of medical or dietetic professionals.

But what happens if you serve healthier fare? And what happens if you give people a little nudge towards it?

A recent study sought to explore that and prior to 3 conferences, randomized attendees into receiving one of the following two options to consider for their lunch choices
Group 1 (this was the non-vegetarian default ask): At the conference a non-vegetarian buffet will be served for lunch. Please state here if you would like to have a vegetarian dish prepared for you: __________________________________.

Group 2 (this was the vegetarian default ask): At the conference a vegetarian buffet will be served for lunch. Please state here if you would like to have a non-vegetarian dish prepared for you:__________________________________.
You know what happened next.

At all 3 conferences, whatever was highlighted as the default lunch option was chosen by the vast majority for lunch.

At the first conference, the vegetarian choice increased from 2% to 87%. At the second conference it increased from 6% to 86%. And at the third conference it increased from 12.5% to 89%.

You know what would have certainly led to even higher numbers? No non-vegetarian options. And to be clear, I'm not suggesting vegetarian diets are a panacea, there are plenty of unhealthy vegetarian foods, but this simple study illustrates the power afforded to conference organizers in terms of what's being served and how it's being presented to attendees. The same of course would be true of any venue where meals and/or snacks are presented.

Given we eat what we're served, it seems to me to be a straightforward expectation, at least for medical and dietetic conferences, that we're served healthy options.

[Thanks to my friend and colleague David Nunan for sharing this study with me, and you should follow him on Twitter if you don't already]