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Behavioral Economics May Guide You to Healthy Meal Choices

Just, D.R. & Wansink, B. (2009). Better school meals on a budget: Using behavioral economics and food psychology to improve meal selection. Choices, 24(3), 19-24.

Bill Clinton discusses the need for better school nutrition

To use a debit card or to use cash, that is the question... If you want to stay healthy when deciding how to pay for lunch in the cafeteria, this website will show you how a simple trick might change what you buy.

The major advantage of using a debit card is convenience. One swipe with a pocket size card can buy you anything. Yet, in school cafeterias, using cash for lunch can be more beneficial than using a debit card. Dr. Wansink and his team discovered that students who paid with cash, as opposed to a debit card, made healthier choices. Those using cash increased the percentage of money spent on healthy food by 30% compared to those using debit cards. Currently, 62% of public schools use some form of cashless payment method and by 2012, it is estimated that this number will increase up to 80%. The trend of converting to cashless payment can unknowingly direct students of United States' public schools toward unhealthy eating choices and obesity.

Brian Wansink and David Just share a USDA lunch with students at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School in Ithaca, NY.
Article Summary by Chong–Hyun Kim
Full text paper: (available as a pdf by clicking here)

Brian Wansink, PhD
Food and Brand Lab, Director
110 Warren Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853