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Study uncovers clever way to get people to eat their veggies


Are you salivating yet?

Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Turns out if you call beets “dynamite” and sweet potatoes “zesty,” people actually want to eat their veggies.

A new study published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine from Stanford University’s Psychology Department found that rich, descriptive and delicious labels for vegetables makes them a lot more appealing.

The study found that “indulgent” descriptors for vegetables like beets, corn, green beans, zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes won over diners at a university cafeteria. We get it: “rich buttery roasted sweet corn” sounds too good to pass over. Especially when compared to just plain-old “corn.”

It's all in the description.

It’s all in the description.

So when you put out descriptions like “dynamite chili and tangy lime-seasoned beets” that sounds way more appealing than descriptions that say what isn’t included, like “lighter-choice beets with no added sugar.” Even labeling the beets with their health benefits, such as “high-antioxidant beets” makes them less desirable.

Treating vegetables like a steak dinner works. 

Vegetables labeled “indulgently” saw a 23 percent selection increase compared to “basic” labels. Compared to “healthy restrictive” labels (like “reduced-sodium corn”), indulgent descriptors increased the choice of veggies by 33 percent. 

These results came from recording food selection in the cafeteria every weekday during the fall 2016 quarter (that’s 46 days). Of the almost 28,000 diners during that period, 8,279 diners chose vegetables.

So this means we’ve been going about marketing vegetables wrong.

If we just re-framed our carrots as zesty and succulent, we’d be salivating as much as when that sizzling, cheesy pizza comes out of the oven.

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