Nudging children towards whole wheat bread: a field experiment on the influence of fun bread roll shape on breakfast consumption

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Background: Many children do not eat enough whole grains, which may have negative health consequences. Intervention research is increasingly focusing on nudging as a way to influence food choices by affecting unconscious behavioural processes. The aim of this field study was to examine whether the shape of bread rolls is able to shift children’s bread choices from white to whole wheat during breakfast to increase whole grain intake. Methods: In a between-subjects experiment conducted at twelve primary schools in the Netherlands, with school as the unit of condition assignment, children were exposed to an assortment of white and whole wheat bread rolls, both varying in shape (regular versus fun). Children were free to choose the type and number of bread rolls and toppings to eat during breakfast. Consumption of bread rolls was measured at class level via the number of bread rolls before and after breakfast. In addition, children (N = 1113) responded to a survey including questions about the breakfast. Results: Results of the field experiment showed that about 76% of bread consumption consisted of white bread rolls. Consumption of white bread rolls did not differ according to shape (all P-values > 0.18). However, presenting fun-shaped whole wheat bread rolls almost doubled consumption of whole wheat bread (P = 0.001), particularly when the simultaneously presented white bread rolls had a regular shape (interaction P = 0.02). Survey results suggest that slight increases in perceived pleasure and taste are associated with these effects. Conclusions: Overall, presenting whole wheat bread in fun shapes may be helpful in increasing consumption of whole wheat bread in children. Future research could examine how improving the visual appeal of healthy foods may lead to sustained behaviour changes. Keywords: Nudge, Nudging, Whole grain, Whole-wheat bread, Children’s food preferences, Bread shape, Visual appeal
Original languageEnglish
Article number906
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • dietary-intake
  • grain intake
  • food
  • acceptance


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