Making the healthy choice easier – role of the local food environment


Food choices are complex; we make over 200 food choices per day, and most are made by habit, without conscious deliberation. A variety of strategies is aimed at changing food choices, as diet affects obesity and chronic disease risk. Many of them target conscious, deliberate food choices, with mixed results. An exciting opportunity lies within local food environments that can help make healthy choices easier by providing better access to affordable, healthy food - thereby facilitating habitual, automatic choices to become healthy choices. However, it is unknown whether everyone responds similarly to environmental cues; it may be that individuals with lower food budgets and those less able to resist temptations are more sensitive to the local food environment.
I hypothesize that local food environments can help make the healthy choice the easy choice, especially for individuals with lower food budgets and those less able to resist temptations. I will apply multidisciplinary frameworks, conduct observational and experimental studies, and use the best methods from epidemiology and geography, as well as from marketing and psychology, with the aim to unravel the interplay between food environments, food budgets and psychosocial constructs such as impulsivity. First, I will use existing quantitative cohort data to test this interplay in relation to dietary intake. Second, I will collect data on where, why and under what circumstances food choices are made using choice-based conjoint analyses, nutrition landscapes, ecological momentary assessments, and eye-tracking. Third, I will conduct a discrete choice experiment with manipulated photographs to test whether hypothetical changes in food environments can increase preferences for healthier food choices across different socioeconomic and psychosocial subgroups.
Taking this novel approach towards the interacting determinants of food choices will help design interventions that make healthy food choices easier, thereby contributing to the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases.





Dr. J.D. Mackenbach

Verbonden aan

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Dr. J.D. Mackenbach


01/01/2018 tot 31/08/2020