The effect of a healthy food cue on choices from an online fast-food menu

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The prevalence of unhealthy food cues in our environment is a major contributor to poor dietary behaviours. Emerging research has shown that changing the food environment through the co-presentation of a healthy food cue may subtly ‘nudge’ individuals towards making healthier choices. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of a healthy food cue on subsequent food and drink choices from an online fast-food ordering menu. Participants (N = 291 women) were first presented with a cue displaying either a healthy or unhealthy meal, or no cue control. They were then shown a pictorial menu with items presented in one of two orders - menu 1 (first item healthy), menu 2 (first item unhealthy) - and asked to choose one item from each of three sections (mains, drinks, desserts). Participants also completed a questionnaire measure of dietary restraint. Overall, participants made more healthy choices from menu 1 than 2. For menu 1, there was a significant interaction between experimental condition and restraint status, whereby restrained eaters made relatively more healthy choices following the healthy cue. This was particularly the case for ‘main’ meal items. The findings have real world implications for digital businesses on how to present food and drink items to nudge individuals towards healthier choices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101632
Number of pages7
JournalEating Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Dietary restraint
  • Food choice
  • Food-cue exposure
  • Nudging


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