HPB steering Singaporeans to eat healthier

Recipe cards with the Healthier Choice Symbol help supermarket customers to choose healthier meal options. These efforts aim to shift behaviours, change eating habits and generate new norms.
Recipe cards with the Healthier Choice Symbol help supermarket customers to choose healthier meal options. These efforts aim to shift behaviours, change eating habits and generate new norms. PHOTO: HEALTH PROMOTION BOARD

Eating healthily can be tough in a foodie's paradise like Singapore but the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has set out to make it easier.

The agency has been using "nudges" to encourage Singaporeans to pick healthier food options, when eating out and also at home.

These efforts are driven by rising obesity rates and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, said HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang.

A 2010 survey showed that one in nine adults aged between 18 and 69 was obese, double the rate seen in 1992.

To combat this, HPB has implemented a range of behavioural intervention programmes aimed at promoting healthy eating and increasing physical activity.

One of these is the Healthier Dining Programme, which was launched in 2014 and gives incentives to restaurants that offer 500-calorie meals.

Consumers are "nudged" towards choosing these meal options, which are identified with a Healthier Choice Symbol on menus.

Since menus are often cluttered and can contribute to decision fatigue, "especially when the consumer is feeling tired and hungry", promotions and vouchers are also used as incentives.

"These efforts aim to shift behaviours, change Singaporeans' eating habits and generate new norms on the ground for healthier eating, so that the increased demand will entice more new food business players to supply healthier meals," said Mr Zee.

More than 1,500 food and beverage outlets are involved in the scheme, including restaurants, cafes, kiosks and caterers, and food courts and hawker stalls.

About 1.1 million healthier meals were sold in September last year, double the number of such meals sold when the programme was launched in June 2014.

Chia Yan Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline 'HPB steering Singaporeans to eat healthier'. Print Edition | Subscribe