Add A Fancy Title To Your Meals

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Here is a reason to add a little creativity to your description of fruit and vegetable dishes.

Studies show, when it comes to produce, we can all use more in our diets.  According to a 2012 study published recently in JAMA, poor intake of specific fruits and vegetables was associated with over 45% of cardiometabolic deaths, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. 1

But a new study has a way around poor intake- label the produce with exciting terms.  Adding descriptive words such as “sizzling, tangy, rich or dynamite” makes adults obtain and eat more vegetables.  The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that more students and staff at Stanford University chose labeled vegetables over standard ones at lunch, even though there was no difference in preparation.  Researchers labeled the vegetables four different ways: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.  The vegetables’ name only was used for basic, healthy restrictive group included words like “reduced sodium or lighter choice”.  For healthy positive, terms such as “vitamin-rich or nutritious green” were used.  Indulgent group vegetables were labeled “rich buttery” or “slow-roasted/caramelized”.

Researchers found that the staff not only chose more of the indulgent vegetables, but also consumed more. Indulgently labeled vegetables were 25% more likely to be chosen than basic labeled, 35% more over healthy positive and 41% more over healthy restrictive. Researchers believed the indulgently labeled vegetables are more in line with why people would choose them- because they are seeking something delicious to eat.2 The study was conducted during a semester at Stanford serving nearly 600 people during lunch.  Vegetables purchased were checked and weighed by cafeteria staff.

Similar studies have shown the same results. A study by Wansick, et. al. found that elementary students chose more vegetables when they had names like “X-ray vision carrots” versus no label. The study found students were 16% more likely to choose fun-labeled vegetables over basic ones. 3

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Here’s a few labels to try on your family or for classes or foodservice:

·      Brilliant broccoli

·      Tender asparagus

·      Caramelized carrots

·      Crunchy corn

·      Savory sweet potatoes

·      Zesty zucchini

Do you have any favorites to share? Let us know!


1.     Renata Micha, RD, PhD1; Jose L. Peñalvo, PhD1; Frederick Cudhea, PhD1; et al, Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States.  JAMA. 2017;317(9):912-924
2.     Bradley P. Turnwald, MS1; Danielle Z. Boles, BA1; Alia J. Crum, PhD1. Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption: Twisted Carrots and Dynamite Beets.  JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 12, 2017

3.     Wansink B1, Just DR, Payne CR, Klinger MZ. Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools. Prev Med. 2012 Oct;55(4):330-2

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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