Fancy Names, Indulgent Ingredients Could Make People Eat More Vegetables


Researchers from Stanford University have devised a simple way to present vegetables, making it more appealing to people.

Their new method, described in a paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, doesn’t need any top-notch ingredients nor new cooking techniques. The researchers showed that simply giving vegetable fancy names or indulgent descriptions could make it more appealing to people.

“We have this intuition to describe healthy foods in terms of their health attributes, but this study suggests that emphasizing health can actually discourage diners from choosing healthy options,” said Bradley Turnwald, a graduate psychology student and lead author of the study, in a press release. “If people don’t think healthy foods taste good, how can we expect them to make healthy choices?”

For the study, the researchers changed the label of certain vegetables served at a large in-campus dining hall. The vegetable were labeled using four categories: basic healthy restrictive, healthy positive and indulgent. Healthy restrictive labels emphasize the lack of unhealthy ingredient in the meal, while healthy positive labels highlight the health benefits of the vegetables. On the other hand, indulgent labels draw attention to the flavor of the food.

Under healthy restrictive, green beans were labeled “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots”. In healthy positive, they were called “healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots”. To make the green beans fancier and more indulgent, the researchers labeled it as “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots”.

The researchers noted that the food, despite having different labels, were prepared and handled the same way. They monitored the number of diners who chose the vegetable and how much were consumed over the course of each lunch period for an entire academic quarter, which is equivalent to 46 days.

Vegetables with indulgent labels were 25 percent more likely to be chosen than those with basic label. Additionally, diners chose vegetables with indulgent labels 35 percent more than healthy positive and 41 percent more likely than those labeled under healthy restrictive.

With their findings, the researchers noted that changing up the descriptions of healthy food could be an effective and low-cost strategy to encourage the consumption of nutritious foods.

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