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This Subtle Menu Change Can Help You Order Healthier, New Study Says

Researchers found that there's a key way to encourage healthier habits when ordering online.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

With the increased popularity of ordering food from online platforms such as GrubHub and UberEats throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you might not think that the order in which the food is presented on the menu may make any difference. But one new study found that it actually does.

Led by Flinders University PhD Candidate Indah Gynell, the study investigated where on a menu healthy items should be placed to best encourage people to choose them. Researchers found that, on online menus, participants who saw healthy items at the top were up to 40 percent more likely to order them than those who saw the same items further down on the list.

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"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," Gynell said. "In our study, we compared three locations on both printed and online menus, with online being an important addition in the age of food ordering platforms, such as UberEats and Menulog, especially during the pandemic."

The researchers created menus containing eight unhealthy items and four healthy items, and asked female participants to pick which item they would order. Females were picked as the subject of the study due to previous research that shows dieting behaviors are consistently more prevalent in women, the researchers said.

The results of this study suggest that menu placement techniques—and specifically, listing healthy items at the very top of the menu—could be a potentially powerful tool in promoting healthy food choices.

"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," Gynell said.

"Changing the order of a menu, which doesn't require the addition or removal of 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."

For more, check out the 10 Weight Loss Recipes People Are Obsessed With.

Kristen Warfield
Kristen Warfield is the weekend editor for Eat This, Not That! and is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz’s journalism program in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Read more
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