“Nutrition Report Cards” that detail lunch purchases can encourage at-home conversations about health and lead to improved food selection in students
In order to effectively encourage healthy choices, schools can implement nutrition report cards that allow parents to see what their kids are eating at school
The main effect of nutrition report cards was opening up a conversation about nutrition between parents and kids, which led to kids making healthier choices
Tools & Resources
Feel free to download and use any of the graphics, illustrations, videos, and resources on this page for educational purposes. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Parents can easily assess their child’s performance in school through academic report cards—but what about their kid’s choices in the cafeteria? Accurate records of what foods students buy at lunch –“Nutrition Report Cards”— could give caregivers an inside look at lunchroom behaviors. According to Cornell researchers Brian Wansink, David Just (Co-Founders of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement), Richard Patterson, and Laura Smith, even without any evaluation or grade based upon the nutrition of purchases, Nutrition Report Cards could inspire conversations about health and improve students’ lunch choices.
The parents of 35 students, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, signed up to receive Nutrition Report Cards for their kids every day for five weeks via email. To create the records, researchers added three buttons to the school district’s computerized registers so that cashiers could easily record the purchase of 1) Fruit/Vegetable items, 2) Starchy sides, and 3) White Milk. The registers also had pre-existing buttons that recorded a-la-carte items by name (such as cookies, chips, or ice cream), so those snacks were also able to appear in reports.
After the Nutrition Report Cards were implemented, participating students bought significantly fewer cookies than they had in previous weeks. They also bought fruits and vegetables more frequently and purchased flavored milk less often, though those results were not statistically significant.
Why exactly did students make better choices when their parents received these Report Cards? Post-intervention surveys revealed that most parents saw the Nutrition Report Cards as an opportunity to talk to their children about nutrition. Because their kids were aware that their parents could observe their food purchases, the adults felt comfortable starting conversations about nutritional choices.
These Nutrition Report Cards can be implemented and maintained with very little additional time on behalf of the school. According to the researchers, the initial programming of a computer to record such categories as Fruits/Vegetables, Starches, and White Milk requires just one hour. The actual use of the buttons to record purchases, however, only takes an additional 0.16 seconds per transaction, making Nutrition Report Cards a quick and simple way to spark important conversations about nutrition.
For more Smarter Lunchrooms strategies visit, smarterlunchrooms.org
• Download paper from the SSRN (the Social Science Research Network)
Wansink, Brian, David R. Just, Richard W. Patterson, and Laura E. Smith. (2013). Nutrition Report Cards: An Opportunity to Improve School Lunch Selection. PLOS ONE, 8(10), e72008. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072008
Other Interesting Articles on Compensation
Dijksterhuis, A. (2004). Think Different: The Merits of Unconscious Thought in Preference Development and Decision Making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 586-598.
Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M. W., Nordgren, L. F., & Van Baaren, R. B. (2006). On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect. Science, 311, 1005-1007.
Fillingim, R. B., Roth, D. L., & Haley, W. E. (1989). The effects of distraction on the perception of exercise-induced symptoms. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 33, 241-248.
Fishbach, A., & Dhar, R. (2005). Goals as Excuses or Guides: The Liberating Effect of Perceived Goal Progress on Choice. Journal of Consumer Research, 32, 370-377.
Karageorghis, C. I., & Terry, P. C. (1997). The psychophysical effects of music in sport and exercise: A review. Journal of Sport Behavior, 20, 54.
Khan, U., & Dhar, R. (2006). Licensing Effect in Consumer Choice. Journal of Marketing Research, 43, 259-266.
King, N. A. (1999). What processes are involved in the appetite response to moderate increases in exercise-induced energy expenditure? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58, 107-113.
King, N. A., Snell, L., Smith, R. D., & Blundell, J. E. (1996). Effects of short-term exercise on appetite responses in unrestrained females. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 50, 663-667.
Kivetz, R., & Zheng, Y. (2006). Determinants of justification and self-control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 572-587.
Lerouge, D. (2009). Evaluating the Benefits of Distraction on Product Evaluations: The Mind-Set Effect. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 367-379.
Lichtman, S.W., Pisarska, K., Berman, E.R., Pestone, M., Dowling, H., Offenbacher, E., Weisel, H., Heshka, S., Matthews, D.E., & Heymsfield, S.B. (1992). Discreptency between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. New England Journal of Medicine, 327 (27), 1893-1898.
Martins, C., Morgan, L. M., Bloom, S. R., & Robertson, M. D. (2007). Effects of exercise on gut peptides, energy intake and appetite. Journal of Endocrinology, 193, 251-258.
Nowlis, S. M., & Shiv, B. (2005). The Influence of Consumer Distractions on the Effectiveness of Food-Sampling Programs. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 42 (2), 157-168.
Okada, E.M. (2005). Justification Effects on Consumer Choice of Hedonic and Utilitarian Goods. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 42, 43-53.
Learn more . . .