My desk is covered in post-its. I have notes about everything, from what I need to do the following day to topic ideas to meeting times. There are even notes detailing what I’ve already accomplished, so that I don’t forget and write two blog entries based on the same article or buy excessive amounts of milk. Post-its are my memory lifeline, my daily reminders. Without them, I would be completely lost. And, I’m not alone. Everyone needs a memo once in a while, a quick scribble that tells them to forward an e-mail or pick up Grandma at the airport. With that in mind, manufacturers, researchers and nutritionists have begun developing healthy-choice post-its.
No, they aren’t all teaming up to create sticky, little, yellow squares with wellness guidelines on them (although that would be nice), but many of them are doing something similar. One year ago, for example, Hannaford Bros. Co. examined all of its products and assigned those that met a certain level of health, stars. Items with one star were good, two stars were better, and three stars were the best. They then placed the stars on price tags, produce signs and meat/poultry/fish cases. What they found was an increase in sale for the starred products (particularly the three-starred) and a decrease for products, like whole milk, that had received none. The consumers were guided by a little reminder of what was good for them. Similar findings, in terms of exercise, were discovered in the United Kingdom. Researchers placed signs along a stairwell reading, “Take the Stairs” and “7 Minutes of Stair Climbing Daily Protects Your Heart.” Three weeks later, stairwell activity had increased by 190 percent, going up and down. Nearby, unlabeled staircases saw more traffic as well. This proved that the signs inspired not only immediate action but continual activity throughout the day.
What these two instances tell us is that we want to make nutritious decisions, but we need a little guidance. Unfortunately, very few stairwells are labeled with exercise reminders, and Hannaford, with its stars, owns only 160 supermarkets. But there is hope. There are other signs that you can look for that will lead you to healthy decisions. The American Heart Association labels items low in saturated fats and cholesterol with a check-marked heart. Kellogg’s just launched Nutrition at a Glance, a program that moves the nutrition information from the side to the front of the box. And as ridiculous as it sounds, words like low-sodium, reduced-fat and sugar-free are easy things to look for when you’re shopping. As far as exercise – hopefully there will be more bannered stairwells soon. Until then, pull out your post-its and make your own. Stick “go to the gym” in between “pick up dry-cleaning” and “call mom.”