Giving ‘seductive names’ to vegetables increases the amount of vegetables people eat, according to a new study by Stanford University.
The team used terms such as “Twisted citrus-glazed carrots”, “Dynamite beets” and “Sizzlin’ beans” on products available in the university’s cafeteria, and found that vegetable sales rose 25 per cent when these terms were used, with plates being filled up more too.
Interestingly, the use of healthy labels such as “wholesome” had a negative effect, despite the dishes being completely identical.
For the study, researchers labelled a vegetable dish with a certain description each day during the autumn academic term. The labels used were from one of the following categories:
- Indulgent: “Twisted citrus-glazed carrots”
- Health positive: “Smart-choice Vitamin C citrus carrots”
- Healthy restrictive: “Carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing”
- Basic: “Carrots”
The scientists rotated the choice of vegetables available to ensure there was plenty of variety throughout the week, and each day they counted how many of the approximately 600 diners chose the vegetable dish.
In addition to this, the researchers weighed how much food had been taken from the serving bowl.
When the indulgent labels were used, 25 per cent more people chose the vegetable dish compared to when basic labels were used. This rose to 35 per cent when compared to healthy positive labels, and 41 per cent when compared to healthy restrictive labels.
“When most people are making a dining decision, they are motivated by taste, and studies show that people tend to think of healthier options as less tasty for some reason,” said Bradley Turnwald, lead author.
“Labels really can influence our sensory experience, affecting how tasty and filling we think food will be, so we wanted to reframe how people view vegetables, using indulgent labels.”
Turnwald highlighted that more research is required into the area, and also said he would be interested in seeing if the effects can be replicated when ordering off a restaurant menu, without the food being visible to the customer.
The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.