How much power do you have over the food others eat? Are you aware that you are their nutritional gatekeeper?
What’s A “Nutritional Gatekeeper”?
The person that provides the majority of food for an individual or their household is known as their “nutritional gatekeeper.” He or she largely controls what is consumed by those they are responsible for.
For children, for example, that’s about 72% of the food they eat, which means if you are the gatekeeper, you have a lot of power. You…
- decide what food is bought
- adjust access to it
- rule how many calories meals have
- determine where it’s stored
- choose how the food is prepared
- resolve what gets thrown away
When you make bad choices, the people you care for make bad choices. But when you’re informed, you can teach them to make good choices. Or at least turn bad choices into better ones.
You Decide Their Choice Architecture
But how do you do it? By steering the “choice architecture” of the people, especially children, you care for. Let’s look at how supermarkets use this principle.
When you wander through a grocery store and end up in the toothpaste aisle, you’ll notice that the “adult” toothpastes are at your eye level, and those for kids at theirs.
That’s no coincidence. If it wasn’t so, the environment wouldn’t facilitate sales. If the kids’ toothpastes were at your level, and the adult ones at theirs, both of you would see a product you aren’t interested in.
The supermarket staff made it easy for you and your kids to make the choices they are interested in – those that get the cash register ringing. I already advised you to do the same for yourself when you want to lose weight: design your choice architecture.
Designing Their Choice Architecture
Luckily a comparable effect works in your kitchen and not only for yourself, but also for those you care for:
- Keep the foods you would like them to eat at their eye level and visible
- When presenting them with multiple food choices, make the preferrable one the first – it’s 11% more likely eaten than the third choice
- Don’t forbid foods, that won’t work; present the better alternatives and keep undesirable foods out of sight
- Even when you buy “bad” foods the people you care for love, you can nudge the direction
The last bullet point can do with a bit more explaining; it’s the caloric density I’m getting at. Ground beef, for example, ranges from 72 – 97% lean, with the caloric density declining as the % lean increases (fat is as calorically dense as things get). That makes a big difference in in situations that go “mom, I want HAM -BUR – GERS!!!”
Leave Your Questions!
Hopefully this was of some use and raised awareness as to how important the role of the “nutritional gatekeeper” is within a family and how it can positively influence outcomes. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below. Thanks!
Picture courtesy of “mjk23“.