Can simply naming vegetables differently encourage healthy eating?

Islamabad – March 7 (Online) Int’l: How do you encourage people to eat their greens? A new study shows that naming vegetable dishes with adjectives that promote their flavor increases positive thinking about healthful eating.

For some, a healthful diet means having to tolerate eating bland tasting, unsatisfying foods, which can seem like a punishment rather than an enjoyable eating experience. New research, appearing in the journal Psychological Science, shows that giving healthful dishes a more enticing description can significantly increase the uptake of healthful options.

Using previous research findings, few years ago, researchers from the University of Stanford, CA, teamed up with Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises to trial a new approach to healthful eating. They removed the adjectives that described unhealthful foods and devised a system of naming healthful foods according to the flavors in the dish.

This year, the same group took the research further, extending this approach to university students.

For this new study, they used a randomized, multisite intervention involving 57 colleges and universities in the United States to assess the effect of taste-focused food labeling. Over a period of 185 days, the team analyzed 137,842 decisions about 24 types of vegetable in 71 dishes with healthful, neutral, or taste-focused names. There was also a 14% increase in the uptake of vegetables when they had taste-focused names rather than neutral names.

Overall, when the researchers analyzed the consumption of healthful food by comparing the initial servings with the amount that the diners discarded into compost, they saw a 39% increase in the weight of vegetables that the participants consumed.

Limitations and future research

There is a limitation to this research, however, in that the researchers do not mention cost as a factor that may influence healthful eating. Indeed, if healthful foods are generally more expensive than unhealthful foods, it stands to reason that dropping the prices of healthful foods to be more in line with those of unhealthful foods might further boost the increase in the uptake of healthful foods with taste-focused names.

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