Have trouble eating healthy? Scientists say bribery could help

Photo: marilyna (iStock)

A newly published and completely legitimate scientific study has concluded that you can easily get people to eat healthy foods by bribing them with cold hard cash.

In two separate trials, participants spent three weeks documenting their fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as their moods and stress levels. The first group received no incentive for eating a healthy diet aside from a feeling of personal satisfaction. The second group, when they ate a fruit or vegetable, got a dollar.

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“What we know is that people tend to eat less healthy when they are stressed,” said Angela Bryan, professor of psychology and neuroscience and one of the study’s co-authors, in an interview with Colorado Arts & Science Magazine. “We wondered if we associated a more positive thing with healthy behaviors, is there any way we might be able to offset that stress effect? So, if you see a carrot less as something like, ‘Ugh, gosh, I have to eat a carrot’ and more, ‘I get paid to eat a carrot,’ does that mitigate the effects of stress on healthy eating?”

When the documentation was evaluated, it showed that the control group not only made poorer eating decisions, but also had higher perceived stress levels. The group that was bribed ate their fruits and vegetables, even during periods of intense stress, and reported improved moods and feeling better overall.

The paper notes that the researchers will be doing even more studies to learn about the effectiveness of bribery. If participants can help find a connection between Oreos and longevity, there’s a cool, crisp $20 bill in it for them.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer. Questions about recipes or need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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