Junk food has its own built in reward: It tastes awesome and it tastes awesome right now. But the benefits of healthy eating can seem more intangible: “Great. I get to live longer. When does that happen??”
When you think of it that way, the findings of a new study out of Cornell University actually make a lot of sense. Researchers discovered that tying immediate benefits to healthy eating was a more effective way of getting junk food lovers to alter their eating habits than more common methods like calorie counts, reduced prices and advertising.
"The findings are significant because they reveal a positive path—behavioral rewards for making good food choices—to healthy eating, as opposed to the punitive path (e.g., calorie counting or food restrictions),” said Robert Kwortnik, one of the paper’s authors, referencing a study that compared giving customers rewards point versus a straight discount. “We find that offering rewards, such as points that can be redeemed later, encourage healthy food choices, especially for consumers with bad eating habits. So restaurants can encourage repeat patronage with reward programs and encourage healthy eating by rewarding consumers for making better choices. It's a win-win."