3 Scientifically-Backed Secrets for Eating Healthy

New research explains simple steps that can help make eating healthier easier

If you want to make eating healthy effortless, a new study from researchers at Cornell University suggests that the most effective strategy may be what they call the “C.A.N. Approach.”

This involves three simple elements:

1. Convenience: Healthy, wholesome foods should be “easy to reach.”

2. Attraction: Healthy, wholesome foods should be “enticingly displayed.”

3. Normal: Healthy, wholesome foods should appear as an “obvious choice.”

The study’s authors came to this conclusion after analyzing data from 112 studies that had previously collected information about healthy eating habits. They found that the “C.A.N.” strategy applied to restaurants, grocery stores, school cafeterias and foods stored at home.  

"A healthy diet can be as easy as making the healthiest choice the most convenient, attractive and normal," said Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of “Slim by Design” and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

The study was published in Psychology and Marketing and the authors said it shows that when fruit or other healthy foods are placed next to our car keys, for example, it simply becomes more convenient, attractive and normal for us to grab what’s right in front of us, rather than a less nutritious choice that might be stored away in the fridge or a cabinet.

The same goes for restaurant menus: when an item is highlighted, presented with an enticing name or mentioned by the server, it’s likely to become more appealing to us.

“With these three principles, there are endless changes that can be made to lead people—including ourselves—to eat healthier," said Wansink.

These findings also help to support earlier studies which have found that where we store and place foods in our kitchen can play a role in what we choose to eat. Some of the research has shown that we can increase our chances of making a healthier choice by storing nutritious, wholesome foods at eye level (or the opposite by storing less healthy foods in that same spot).

Why Calories Matter Less than You Probably Think
Foods That can Help Prevent Weight Gain
Learning to Read Nutrition Labels: Tips for Making Healthier Choices