Sweet sizzlin' beans! Fancy names may boost healthy dining

Zesty Zucchini? Indulgently Named Veggies More Appealing

Zesty Zucchini? Indulgently Named Veggies More Appealing

Getting people to eat more vegetables may be as easy as a marketing makeover, according to new research.

Researchers tried a big serving of food psychology and a dollop of trickery to get diners to eat their vegetables.

Indulgent labeling of vegetables resulted in 25 percent more people selecting the vegetable compared with basic labeling, 41 percent more people than the healthy restrictive labeling and 35 percent more people than the healthy positive labeling, according to the results.

The researchers took advantage of their location on a residential campus and used one of Stanford's dining halls as a lab to see how different descriptions impact eating habits.

No changes were made to how the vegetables were prepared or served - the only difference was the wording on the label.

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"This means that we may be able to help fight the obesity epidemic and the problematic mindset that healthy foods are not tasty by changing the way that we label and talk about healthy foods", Turnwald said by email.

Indulgent labeling of vegetables also resulted in a 23 percent increase in the mass of vegetables consumed compared with basic labeling and a 33 percent increase in the mass of vegetables consumed compared with the healthy restrictive labeling.

Green beans, for instance, were described as "green beans" (basic), "light "n" low-carb green beans and shallots" (healthy restrictive), "healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots" (healthy positive) or "sweet sizzlin' green beans and crispy shallots" (indulgent).

During the study at Stanford University in California, 8,279 of 27,933 diners selected the vegetable.

For many consumers, there's a perception that healthy food is boring and plain, and exciting labels might get some people to try things they might not otherwise eat, said Vandana Sheth, a private practice dietician and nutritionist in Los Angeles and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Nina Crowley, PhD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and health psychologist working as the metabolic and bariatric surgery coordinator at the Medical University of SC, said she wasn't surprised by the results.

"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", Turnwald said.

However, these findings could be the basis for a potentially effective strategy to answer a challenging question, researchers said.

But what if the same words that food sellers usually reserve for those indulgent foods-like juicy, crispy and seasoned-were applied to the veggies?

Restaurants and food companies were urged to use the findings to be more inventive about how they described vegetables, after separate figures yesterday showed two thirds of Britons are not eating enough. "If people don't think healthy foods taste good, how can we expect them to make healthy choices?"

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This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

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