Color-coded labels could promote healthy eating

By Amanda Stewart,

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The use of color-coded labels to mark healthier foods and displaying those foods more noticeably has made it easier for customers to make better choices, according to a report from the Massachusetts General Hospital.

According to the Harvard Gazette, the study was initiated in March of 2010 at the Mass. Gen. Hospital and conducted for two years. It was meant to see if people would buy healthier foods with the inclusion of these new easy to identify labels that did not require any in-depth reading or knowledge of the healthiness of said food items.

HealthDay reported that the study consisted of three different colored labels: green, red and yellow. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables got green labels, while junk foods got red labels. Yellow belonged to the in-between foods. The hospital also placed healthier foods at eye level.

Green-labeled items sold at a rate that was 12 percent higher than prior to the study and the sale of red-labeled items dropped 20 percent.

The results of the study show that purchasing patterns differed greatly after changing labels and the way that the food was placed. Anne Thorndike, who led the study at MGH, said, “This is good evidence that these changes in healthy choices persist over time.”

"The next steps will be to develop even more effective ways to promote healthy choices through the food-service environment and translate these strategies to other worksite, institutional or retail settings," she said.

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