Menu engineering: A strategy for seniors to select healthier meals

Charles Feldman, Meena Mahadevan, Haiyan Su, Joseph Brusca, John Ruzsilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Aims: The specific objective of this ongoing investigation is to assess various menu manipulations and nutrition labelling to determine if they can effectively guide the older adult consumer to select healthier food items from a menu offering meals with differing nutritional attributes.Methods: One of three randomly assigned menus and a questionnaire were distributed to 150 senior adults (> 60 years of age) living in three assisted living residences, three congregate senior day programmes, and one senior church group in New Jersey, USA. A generic control menu, a treatment menu that used various merchandizing tools to promote the healthier menu items and the same treatment menu with nutritional labels added were designed. Participants selected their top five choices and then answered a short questionnaire, which surveyed demographics and menu selection background information.Results: The researchers found that certain menu merchandizing tools were effective, while nutrition labelling did not have a substantial effect for this population.Conclusions: Nutrition labels did not encourage healthier choices for the seniors surveyed in this study. Therefore, subliminal menu treatments may be more effective than nutrition labelling of menu items for elderly populations. Menu design has the potential to encourage healthier decisions through hidden persuaders, without infringing on the rights of elderly consumers to choose more indulgent menu options. However, menus are not effective tools for seniors who cannot cognitively and independently understand the menu. In certain circumstances, a non-select meal offering might be the best option. The menu strategies used in this study are most effective for those who are able to make independent menu choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-274
Number of pages8
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • elder care
  • food service
  • menu engineering
  • nutrition


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