Designing Spaces to Encourage Healthy Eating

We have already discussed how design plays into the restaurants we choose to eat at, but what about food facilities or cafeterias at the places we work, learn, or heal? Unhealthy eating has become an epidemic in America with 34 percent of adults over the age of 20 diagnosed as obese and diabetes affecting nearly 26 million. How can these facilities be re-imagined to better serve and engage its users?

As design leaders from Perkins+Will point out in their Designing for Health web series, design can play a critical role in helping people make better food choices. A 2005 survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that fewer than one-third of hospitals offered a salad bar or low-fat entrée option; even worse, 62 percent of the “healthiest entrées” derived more than 30 percent of calories from fat. Healthcare facilities must emphasize the connection between nutrition and wellness and, moreover, make the food appealing using attractive and eye-catching displays.

Research has shown that if the first thing people see in a cafeteria is a salad bar, then they are more likely to stop there. Also, East Coast retailer Wegman’s, has promoted health by putting produce front and center and using direct lighting and colorful descriptions to highlight healthy foods along with Wellness Keys, a branded labeling system that points out specific nutritional attributes.

Do you think spaces can be successfully designed to help us eat healthier?

Fresh Del Monte Produce introduced a vending machine that dispenses carrots, bananas, and other produce. Sporting engaging graphics and the punchy tagline “Taste. Feel. Live. Better!”, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending machines feature healthful snacks and drinks. The company also has a broader goal—donating 10 percent of proceeds to charitable causes that fight obesity and malnutrition. Distinctive branding on the machines and on the company’s Web site makes the corporate goal clear: “help unite man and nutrition by making health foods, drinks, and information universally acceptable.

 Photo: Contract

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