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People will choose to eat healthily if given the option, researchers in Australia have found. An experiment involving 497 people shopping for groceries online found that, when prompted, people are very happy to swap an unhealthy food item for a lower fat alternative.

During the course of the experiment, the average shopper lowered the saturated fat content of their shopping basket by 10 per cent.

The experiment was only concerned with fat, but the researchers reckon they would get similar results if the shopping engine offered people low salt or low sugar foods as well.

The research was conducted at the George Institute for International Health. The team collated a list of 524 foods with saturated fat percentages between one and 92 per cent, (i.e. 1g saturated fat per 100g) and rewrote the supermarket site to display a pop up when someone added one of the items to their basket.

The pop-up flagged the high fat choice and offered the shopper the option of choosing a lower fat alternative or sticking with the original choice.

Most took the healthy option, and the older, more overweight shoppers were the most likely to make the swap. Low fat dairy items were the most popular substitutions.

More information on the research, funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, is here. ®

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