Food Informatics: A “Moonshot” Approach to Driving Positive Food Choices

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It’s estimated that adults, on average, make roughly 35,000 conscious decisions each day and, of those, about 226 are related to food. How can nutrition professionals exercise their expertise to make sure that the most nutritious food choice also is the easiest choice?

In science and technology, we are constantly pushing boundaries. This same “moonshot” approach can be applied to how we help consumers make better food choices.

I had the opportunity to support these efforts as a nutrition intern working with an on-site restaurant company and a leading technology corporation. The goal of this partnership was to create healthy eating systems, applying behavioral science and nutrition-focused concepts with cutting-edge techniques. At the tech corporation, each encounter with food is viewed as an opportunity to fuel a conversation for the next “moonshot” idea — a conversation that adds to a culture not only pushing for innovation but inspiring a more sustainable lifestyle.

Among the company’s ongoing efforts to influence food literacy, dietary habits and overall wellbeing are the strides they are taking to reinvent corporate foodservice with a vision to impact the global food system. Their on-site café has its own teaching kitchen offering hands-on interaction with talented chefs. The classes function to enable and enhance culinary skills and food literacy among the company staff, thus leading to positive food experiences that can be shared away from work in homes and communities.

Another effort to nudge users toward making more informed food choices is through behavioral science. This concept explores the influences of choice and how businesses can design environments that either provide or reinforce healthy choices. Appeal, vivid messaging and food item imagery can all impact choice. With this concept in mind, I had the opportunity to create “bite-size” nutrition and health information for the company’s micro-kitchen seasonal fruit bowls. The fruit signage reflected a new approach for labeling fruit within the micro-kitchen. For each category of fruit, I wrote a description that included the fruit’s physical appearance and flavor profile, highlighting its health benefits.

Simple communication messages that are strategically placed and timed can direct an individual toward choosing the healthier option. Organizations are seeking solutions to create better eating environments that promote health, productivity and community. As dietitians, let’s join forces with these forward-thinking businesses to create a more sustainable and responsible future. 

Hannah Wigington

Hannah Wigington, RDN, is a wellness advisor for an employee benefits firm based in Augusta, GA.