While many public health campaigns have tried to persuade Americans to eat more veggies by emphasizing their nutritional benefits, few have succeeded in getting people to put more broccoli on their plates. Now, a study in Psychological Science suggests that food labels emphasizing tastiness and an expectation of a positive eating experience may make healthy foods more tempting.
Researchers from Stanford University found that when students in college dining halls were presented with vegetable dishes that had evocative labels, such as “ultimate chargrilled asparagus,” “sizzlin’ Szechuan green beans” and “twisted citrus-glazed carrots,” the students tended to choose and consume more veggies than they did when dishes had neutral or health-focused names, such as “healthy-choice turnips.” Diners put vegetables on their plates 29% more often when names were taste-focused versus health-focused and 14% more often when names were taste-focused versus neutral. Taste-focused labels also increased actual consumption of veggies by 39% compared with health-focused labels.
The catch? The investigators found taste-oriented labeling boosted vegetable consumption only when dishes were indeed delicious. This drives home the point that focusing on health at the expense of flavor can give people the mindset that a diet full of nutritious foods is tasteless and depriving. Perhaps this method of marketing healthful dishes could be applied to restaurant menus to get people to consider the “totally awesome salad” instead of the burger combo.
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