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Research shows that green beliefs lead to healthier food choices




Research shows that green beliefs lead to healthier food choices

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 public domain

A natural landscape usually evokes positive emotions and a sense of well-being in most people. A new study from INSEAD shows that green views can also encourage people to choose healthier foods.

Published in Communication psychologyThe research shows that spending time in a natural environment, such as walking in a park (vs. in the city), or simply looking at the greenery outside the window (vs. from the city), leads people to make healthier food choices afterwards to make.

“Our studies suggest that it was not the urban vision that led to unhealthy food choices, but rather that nature pushed people to eat healthier,” said Pierre Chandon, one of the study’s co-authors and the L’Oréal chaired professor of marketing at INSEAD. .

In one study, participants were randomly assigned to take a 20-minute walk through a park or through busy streets in Paris. Afterwards, all participants were offered a buffet with a mix of healthy and less healthy snacks.

While participants in both groups ate about the same amount, those who had walked in the park showed a clear preference for healthier choices: 70% of their choices consisted of healthier snacks, compared to just 39% for the city walkers.

In another, more controlled experiment, participants were placed in simulated “hotel rooms” with different window views: a green meadow, a city street, or a control condition, a blank wall with closed curtains. They were asked to choose lunch from a room service menu of healthy and unhealthy main courses, drinks and desserts.

The results mirrored the previous experiment. Those with nature views chose healthier options, while those with urban or darkened views showed less healthy preferences.

The idea for this study came from co-author Maria Langlois, who noticed how she and her teammates participating in a 7,200km charity bike ride were moving more toward healthier, whole foods as they cycled through natural environments. Langlois, who is now an assistant professor of marketing at SMU’s Cox School of Business, turned this observation into a series of rigorous field and online studies when she enrolled in INSEAD’s Ph.D. program.

Interestingly, the research suggests that not all natural environments have the same effect. The vibrancy and level of greenery in the area can play a role. For example, when snow covers natural or urban views, the landscape has no influence on food choice.

The researchers conducted another experiment to find out whether exposure to nature increases preference for truly healthy and natural foods, or for processed foods that claim to be healthy. They offered participants three types of snacks: diet and light, healthy and natural, or tasty and indulgent.

Exposure to natural scenes reduced preference for both diet snacks, while significantly shifting preferences from indulgent choices to healthier, natural options.

These findings are promising for promoting healthier eating habits. Schools, companies and other organizations could use nature images in cafeterias to encourage students and employees to choose healthier options. Food marketers could use natural visual cues to promote healthy or natural products.

More importantly, the research reminds us of the crucial role of urban planning. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. Integrating green spaces into future urban landscapes will become even more important.

More information:
Maria Langlois et al., Experiencing nature leads to healthier food choices, Communication psychology (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s44271-024-00072-x

Brought to you by INSEAD Asia Campus

Quote: Nature’s nudge: Study shows green views lead to healthier food choices (2024, April 29) retrieved April 30, 2024 from html

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