Adjusting menu choices to improve nutrition and reduce environmental impact

Theme Diet and physical activity

Workstream Population diet and physical activity

Status: This project is ongoing

A significant proportion of the food we eat in the UK is consumed outside the home. For example, 42 per cent of workers eat at a canteen and seven million children eat school lunches every day. This means that eating outside the home accounts for a significant proportion of the impact diet has on our health and the environment.

A worker usually eats one meal a day in a canteen serving menu options that rotate on a fixed-term basis. For example, menu options A, B, and C are available on Monday, options D, E, and F on Tuesday, and so on. This means that the long-term nutritional and environmental performance of a canteen or other place serving food in this way depends on which menu options are served on the same day.

Our preliminary findings confirm that reorganising menu options can improve diet. We will demonstrate this by applying it in a university hall of residence. We will measure the effects this reorganisation has on diet and carbon footprint.

We hope this work will support the development of Consumer Lab – a University of Bristol facility that lets us monitor food selections in the real-world while adjusting menu offerings on any given day.

Project aims

During this project we will trial a tool that:

  • generates a reduction in both the carbon footprint of meals and their sugar, fat, and salt content
  • can be implemented without compromising food acceptability and without consumers even being aware that changes have been made
  • will be ready for immediate application at a city-wide level and beyond