People are more likely to eat vegetables when they have seductive, even seemingly unhealthy names, a team of Stanford University researchers found.
A study, published as a research letter Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, observed habits of nearly 28 thousand diners passing through one of Stanford's campus cafeterias for 46 days. Scholars worked with food service staff to present different labels on vegetables to see if names could influence diners' decisions.
For example, green beans were listed as “green beans” (basic), “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” (healthy-restrictive), “healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots” (healthy-positive) and “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots” (indulgent).
All of the vegetables were prepared the same way, but diners chose more when they were listed with indulgent descriptions. Indulgent labels increased their popularity 25% more than basic labels, 41% more than healthy-restrictive and 35% more than healthy-positive. People went for “twisted citrus-glazed carrots” and “sizzlin’ beans” over those labeled as the “smart-choice” or “sugar-free.”
“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,” Bradley Turnwald, lead author of the study, said in a release.
Researchers said more seductive labeling could change the mindset that healthy food tastes bad.
Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets