Nudging strategies to improve food choices of healthcare workers in the workplace cafeteria: A pragmatic field study

Renate E.H. Meeusen, Bibian van der Voorn, Kirsten A. Berk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Background & aims: Dutch healthcare workers experience the highest workload and absenteeism rates compared to all other professions. This has been associated with a more unhealthy diet. Nudging strategies in the workplace have been shown to improve food choices. We studied the potential of a combination of evidence and practice-based nudging strategies; determined their feasibility in a real-life setting; and explored their effectiveness on healthier purchases over a two-month period in a hospital workplace cafeteria. Methods: We conducted an explorative, prospective field study. Based on information gathered through a literature search and a qualitative field study, we selected the potentially most effective and feasible nudges. These were subsequently implemented in a commercial workplace cafeteria of a Dutch academic medical centre. The selected nudging strategies included product placement, increasing the ratio of healthy to unhealthy product options, and providing nutritional information and motivational statements. Data on the products purchased was collected using photographs of the lunch trays of healthcare workers, with the products then labelled and their nutritional value calculated. Effects were evaluated after one and two months. Chi-square analyses were used to analyse differences over time. Results: A total of 905 photographs of lunches were analysed (approximately 300 at each time point). The nudging strategies implemented resulted in a 41% increase in the purchase of whole-wheat products at the expense of non-whole-wheat products, between baseline and final measurement (p = 0.012). The purchases of healthy and unhealthy bread fillings and beverages did not significantly change during the study period. Conclusion: This explorative study showed that a combination of three nudging strategies partly improved healthy food choices for lunch in a Dutch healthcare setting. These results may help guide other professionals to implement nudging strategies to improve employee food choices. Future research should evaluate the effect over a longer period of time, thereby identifying the most effective combination of nudging strategies and investigate how these effect the health of hospital employees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Nutrition ESPEN
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by SoFoKleS , the Social Fund for the Knowledge Sector.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s)


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