Tricks to Get Everyone to Eat Their Veggies
By Sandy Schroeder
Many of us remember how we made unwanted peas or carrots disappear when we were kids. Now you may find yourself playing the same game with your kids. Researchers are getting involved, too, and they say we need to “sell” our vegetables better to our families.
A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found people ate more veggies when they were labeled with indulgent or flashy descriptions usually used for fast foods or junk foods, or those foods that tend to not be naturally good for you.
Dynamite and Twisted Citrus Food Labels
Stanford University assistant professor of psychology Alia Crum said the study was done in a university cafeteria. Researchers labeled vegetables to be “basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.” Beet descriptions ranged from “high-antioxidant beets” to “dynamite chili and tangy lime-seasoned beets.” No changes were made to the vegetables except for the labels. Other labels were “twisted citrus glazed carrots” or “slow-roasted carmelized zucchini bites.”
Researchers tracked the unsuspecting cafeteria diners who bought vegetables for a period of 10 weeks. What they found was straight out of Marketing 101. Consumers chose vegetables with indulgent labels an astonishing 25 percent more often than those labeled as basic, 35 percent more than healthy positive labeling and 41 percent more than healthy restrictive labeling, which was the most unpopular.
Overall, indulgent labeling persuaded people to buy 16 percent more veggies than the ones labeled healthy positive, 23 percent more than basic and 33 percent more than dishes that had healthy restrictive labels.
Nina Crowley, PhD, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the results are not surprising. Crowley said package labels such as “natural, real, fresh and free” have been selling foods for some time. The nutrition labels on the back of the package tell the real story, but seldom get as much attention.
How This Works for Our Families
Selling vegetables to our families will still require more creativity, since they usually arrive on the table minus special labels. But vegetables could be finely chopped and folded into tacos, or shredded into meatloaf, soup or casseroles. Fresh veggies can be served as snacks with spicy hummus or Greek yogurt dips mixed with green onions and dill. We can also add more flavors with lime juice or spicy peppers, and create crispy snacks, baking sliced veggies with olive oil. We can also take our cue from popular fast food choices, substituting ground turkey for beef in burgers, creating healthy tomato based salsas and serving healthy white fish or black bean tacos. Watch what ingredients your family reaches for and find recipes to make them healthier. The good news is the longer kids eat healthier foods, the less they may crave fast foods with more fat and salt.
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