What’s in a name? Apparently…..quite a bit. While changing the name of food doesn’t change how it tastes, new research shows it might change people’s perception about that food.
Vegetables are the most nutritious and healthy of foods, yet most people don’t think they taste as good as burgers dripping with fat or a salty batch of French fries.
But what if the same words that food sellers usually reserve for those indulgent foods—like juicy, crispy and seasoned—were applied to the veggies? Rebranding vegetables as “tangy ginger bok choy” or “sweet sizzlin’ green beans” may be just the trick to getting more people to eat them.
“A team of researchers at Stanford University in California experimented with randomly naming identical vegetable dishes in one of four ways: a basic description with plain names, a label stressing a lack of unhealthy components like sugar or fat, a tag identifying positive health properties like lots of vitamins or antioxidants or an indulgent moniker designed to make the dish sound delicious and intriguing like “dynamite chili and tangy lime seasoned beets.”
During weekday lunches in a university cafeteria, researchers watched how many people chose the dishes depending on how the dishes were described and then weighed how much food people put on their plates. Compared with basic labels, indulgent descriptions got 25 percent more people to select the vegetable dishes and also resulted in a 23 percent gain in the total weight of vegetables piled onto plates.
What makes this particularly interesting is that despite the different descriptions of the veggies, no changes were made to how they were prepared or served. The only difference was in the wording. US News & World Report wrote, “Diners didn’t realize the items were prepared the exact same way, but they consistently chose the fancy-sounding items more often and served themselves bigger portions in the 46-day experiment last fall. The researchers say the labeling strategy could be tried in other settings to help address the nation’s obesity epidemic.”
CBS News quoted the study’s author, Alia Crum, an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Mind & Body Lab at Stanford University, as saying – “The idea was not to lie to people, not to tell them they’re eating something that they’re not. But we can just slightly change the language so that these words could create a sense of indulgence without altering what the food actually is.”
Share your thoughts on this new research and whether you think this type of approach could change the way we think about healthy…..sorry…..succulent and zesty foods. Cooking up new ways to bring better health to the people of our state will help us take another step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!