Study finds ex­otic names get veg­eta­bles eaten

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION - MAURA JUDKIS

Are we all petu­lant tod­dlers who need to be tricked into eat­ing our veg­eta­bles? One re­cent Stan­ford study says: Yes, yes we are. Stan­ford psy­chol­ogy re­searchers found that peo­ple were more likely to eat veg­eta­bles when they had “the fla­vor­ful, ex­cit­ing, and in­dul­gent de­scrip­tors typ­i­cally re­served for less healthy foods.”

Here’s how they stud­ied it. Each day in a Stan­ford din­ing hall, one veg­etable dish was la­beled ran­domly in one of four ways: Ba­sic (“Green beans”), healthy re­stric­tive (“Light ’n’ low-carb green beans and shal­lots”), healthy pos­i­tive (“Healthy en­ergy-boost­ing green beans and shal­lots”), or in­dul­gent (“Sweet siz­zlin’ green beans and crispy shal­lots”). The dish was pre­pared ex­actly the same each time, re­gard­less of how it was la­beled. Re­search as­sis­tants counted the num­ber of peo­ple who se­lected that veg­etable ev­ery day.

It will not sur­prise you to learn that the more un­healthy the veg­eta­bles sounded, the more likely peo­ple were to eat them. Re­searchers found that 25 per­cent more peo­ple chose the in­dul­gently named veg­etable com­pared to the ba­sic one. The dif­fer­ences were even more stark with the health-based lan­guage: 41 per­cent more chose the in­dul­gent veg­etable com­pared to the healthy re­stric­tive one, and 35 per­cent more chose in­dul­gent vs. healthy pos­i­tive. Also: “La­bel­ing veg­eta­bles in­dul­gently re­sulted in a 23 per­cent in­crease in mass of veg­eta­bles con­sumed com­pared with the ba­sic con­di­tion, and a 33 per­cent in­crease in mass of veg­eta­bles con­sumed com­pared with the healthy re­stric­tive con­di­tion.”

But let’s get back to the names of these dishes that en­cour­aged col­lege stu­dents to eat veg­eta­bles. They in­clude: “dy­na­mite chili and tangy lime-sea­soned beets,” “twisted gar­lic- gin­ger but­ter­nut squash wedges,” “rich but­tery roasted sweet corn” and “slow-roasted caramelized zuc­chini bites.”

Ba­si­cally, if we want peo­ple to eat their veg­eta­bles, this study says we need to name ev­ery vege­tar­ian dish as if we’re Guy Fieri. As­para­gus? Nope, try some “Flamin’ Ace As­para­gus with Don­key Sauce Driz­zle.” Just call cel­ery sticks “Rock ’n’ Roll Crispy Fin­gers.” You’ll know you named it well if you can read it in the voice of a Hardee’s com­mer­cial and feel ashamed.

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