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Why online menus should put healthy foods first

A new research has found that women who see healthy food at the top of an online menu are 30 to 40 per cent more likely to order it

Participants who saw healthy items at the top of an online menu were more likely to choose a healthy item than those who viewed them further down the menu (Unsplash)

If you're a woman and you see a salad, the minute you open your food delivery app, you will go on to order that salad. Or something just as healthy. A new study seems to imply as much--women who see healthy food at the top of an online menu are 30 to 40 per cent more likely to order it, says the study, led by Flinders University PhD Candidate Indah Gynell and was published in the Appetite Journal.

"Previous research has explored menu placement before, but the studies were inconsistent, with some finding placing food items at the top and bottom of a menu increased their popularity, while others suggested that the middle is best," said Gynell in an interview with ANI. She added that the researchers compared three locations on both printed and online menus in the study. Online, she said, was an essential addition in the age of food ordering platforms, such as UberEats and Menulog, especially during the pandemic. Also, only female participants were chosen as previous research had shown that dieting behaviours - likely to impact menu choice - are consistently more prevalent in women, added ANI.

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According to ANI, the researchers created menus containing eight unhealthy and four healthy items, arranged in three rows of four on the physical printed menu and in one column of 12 on the digital menu. "In one study, the physical menu was tested on 172 female participants, while in the second study, the digital menu was tested on 182 female participants," said ANI.

ANI reported that participants chose an item from one of the experimental menus before completing a psychological test that identified their 'dietary restraint status'-- whether or not they were actively choosing to restrict their eating habits for health or weight loss."We found that neither the order of food items nor participants' dietary restraint status, impacted whether or not healthy food was chosen in the physical menus," said Ms Gynell.

However, in the case of online menus, this did change. "We found that participants who saw healthy items at the top of an online menu were 30-40 per cent more likely to choose a healthy item than those who viewed them further down the menu," she added.

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Such findings, believed the authors, are essential since--if added up over time--consistent healthy choices could result in general health benefits at a population level. Such an intervention, therefore, is worth implementing. "Diet-related illnesses and disease are more common now than ever before, and with a rise in online food ordering, it's important we uncover cost-effective and simple public health initiatives," said Ms Gynell. However, she added that changing the order of a menu, which doesn't require adding or removing items, is unlikely to impact profits as consumers are guided towards healthier options without being discouraged from purchasing altogether. "This means it's more likely to be accepted by food purveyors and, despite being a somewhat simple solution, has the potential to shape real-world healthy eating interventions," she concluded. 

  • FIRST PUBLISHED
    19.12.2021 | 11:30 AM IST

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