For example, some Corning schools had express lines for a la carte items—mostly chips, cookies and ice cream. The idea was to reduce bottlenecks caused by full tray lunches that took longer to ring up. But the result was a public health nightmare.
"We were making it very convenient for them to quickly go through the line and get a bunch of less nutritious items," Wallace said.
After studies by Wansink, they renamed some foods in the elementary schools—"X-ray vision carrots" and "lean, mean green beans"—and watched consumption rise. Cafeteria workers also got more involved, asking, "Would you rather have green beans or carrots today?" instead of waiting for a kid to request them.
And just asking, "Do you want a salad with that?" on pizza day at one high school raised salad consumption 30 percent, Wansink said.
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