Not very long ago, the Massachusetts General Hospital decided to encourage the people eating at its cafeteria to make healthier choices as far as food and drinks are concerned not by presenting them with rather unappealing information about calories and the like, but by color-coding the dishes and beverages.
Thus, foods were labeled on a scale from red (least healthy) to green (most healthy), with yellow as middle ground. Apparently, it only took six months for the people eating at this cafeteria to begin improving on their dietary habits.
In plain numbers: the amount of red-labeled dishes consumed by people dropped by 15%, and the intake of unhealthy beverages was also cut down by 39%. Naturally, this meant that more people decided to turn to green foods instead.
Interestingly enough, it seems that this shift in nutrition occurred regardless of the cultural and economic background of the people who participated in this program, says The Scientific American
As explained in the official report for this study, “ Labeling decreased all employees' red item purchases and increased green purchases. Red beverage purchases decreased most. […] Intervention effects were similar across all race / ethnicity and job types.”
Given the fact that a relatively large number of US citizens are presently experiencing serious health issues as a result of a poor nutrition and weight gain, it comes as good news that people can be encouraged to make healthier lifestyle choice simply by color-coding foods.
More so since this method also addresses those who did not benefit from higher levels of education and have low incomes.
To put it bluntly, as the report does, “a traffic-light system is simple and does not have the numeracy demands of calorie counts.” Also, “it gives consumers information about what not to eat.”
This study is entitled 'Food Choices of Minority and Low-Income Employees' and can be read in the 'American Journal of Preventive Medicine.'