What’s in a name? For a healthy vegetable dish, it could be what tempts you to try it.
That’s according to Stanford University researchers, who found college students were 29% more likely to try a veggie with a name focused on taste and indulgence, rather than a healthy-sounding one, and 14% more likely to try them over dishes with neutral names. Diners also ate 39% more veggies by weight.
The idea was to try to make the dish sound decadent: Sauteed peas or tavern-style sizzlin’ sweet peas? Spinach or abuelita’s famous Guatemalan spinach?
“This is radically different from our current cultural approach to healthy eating which, by focusing on health to the neglect of taste, inadvertently instills the mindset that healthy eating is tasteless and depriving,” said Alia Crum, senior author of a paper on the research recently published in Psychological Science.
The researchers began three years ago, trying out enticing names for vegetable dishes at Stanford, and later moved on to collaborate with the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, a group of 57 colleges and universities. The team tracked about 140,000 decisions on 71 dishes. They noted the food actually had to be delicious for the tactic to work.
Collegians are a tough crowd when it comes to veggies. “College students have among the lowest vegetable intake rates of all age groups,” researcher Brad Turnwald noted.
Stanford’s work in the area includes the SPARQtools’ Edgy Veggies toolkit, which walks food pros through the steps for labeling vegetable dishes with mouthwatering names.