Traffic Light Labels Could Increase Healthy Eating

Nutrition labels are confusing, so color-coding foods may help

Color coding labels might help Americans be more healthy.

Recent research has found that half the world's consumers have trouble reading nutrition labels, and nobody really reads them anyway, so color-coding foods might be the next step.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers added traffic-light colored labels to food items in a hospital cafeteria. Red labels denoted unhealthy items, yellow meant neutral, and green meant healthy.

Signs encouraged customers to choose green items and consider alternatives to red items. Within three months, sales for red items went down 9.2 percent and green items went up 4.5 percent.

"We believe this intervention was so successful because it was simple and easy to understand quickly. The labeling did not require any special skills and could be easily interpreted when a customer was in a rush," researcher Anne Thorndike said.

No word on whether or not these findings will differ in a high school cafeteria.

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