Nudging nutrition

Anastasia Vugts, Remco C. Havermans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Globally, dietary patterns are rapidly shifting toward a diet that is associated with various noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain forms of cancer. This dietary pattern is characterised by the excess intake of highly processed, high-fat, high-sugar, and salt-rich foods at the expense of healthier less calorie-dense foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Many public health interventions and policies have been developed and applied but have not successfully improved healthy food choices yet. A little over a decade ago, nudging was introduced as a new tool to change people’s behaviour for their own or societal benefit by exploiting people’s psychological biases and heuristics. The advantage of this approach is that a nudge is generally a very subtle form of manipulation that does not demand much cognitive effort and can be easily avoided by the so-called nudgee, thus making it less invasive than most policy regulations and preserving the nudgee’s freedom of choice. In this chapter, we explain the need for changing poor dietary behaviours, define nudging, and discuss how and to what degree healthy nutrition can be nudged. Furthermore, we will address the question of whether all nudges truly preserve autonomy. We conclude that when it comes to promoting healthy nutrition, nudging complements but does not obviate the need for more intrusive interventions and regulations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied Food Science
EditorsBart Wernaart, Bernd van der Meulen
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-933-6
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-381-5
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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