People Prefer Healthy Food When Food is Called by Exotic Names

Words have power, any book lover or ardent reader will tell you this eagerly but now there’s an interesting study that proves this and what more, it is helping people to choose healthier food gladly. Eating healthy is a big task for people who are trying hard to give up on their sedentary lifestyle, junk or fast food obsession, or simply trying to eat better for greater health benefits.

But let’s face it, a Smoked Meat Lover’s Pie sounds infinitely tastier than Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad or for that matter, Honey-glazed Fiery Fried Pork Ribs attract us more than Pork Ribs with Sauce. And so, some very clever researchers decided to garnish this concept with a healthy dose of food psychology to get people eat their vegetables. No, they didn’t threaten to withhold the desserts, they simply replaced the boring garb of wholesomeness from the healthy options and gave them seductive names, dressing them up with sexy names in the menu. And the trickery worked because it’s all in the name according to a study by the Stanford University under Bradley Turnwald. The research findings were published in the JAMA Internal Medicine in June 2017.

The study was conducted in the university cafeteria where vegetables were labeled in four ways playing with the type of descriptions that would name them to the buyers or customers. For instance, if the menu consisted of carrots then the vegetable would be labeled as:
Basic with just the name, carrots.

Healthy but restrictive, with descriptions like light & low-carb carrots or carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing.
Healthy and positive, with terms like smart-choice citrus carrots or energy-boosting carrots with vitamin C.
Indulgent, with phrases like sweet n’ tangy citrus-glazed carrots or twisted carrots tossed in citrus.
Although the labeling changed, the vegetable was prepared in the exact same way. The researchers confirmed that the vegetables were prepared and served in the same way regardless of the labeling that was ordered by the customers.

And much to the delight of book lovers, the study found that words can do magic. The study reported in its findings that the indulgent label outscored all other labels in leading people to choose a vegetable. It led 25% more people to choose a vegetable compared to the basic label, 41% more than the healthy but restrictive label, and 35% more than the healthy and positive label. Moreover, the fancier names also increased the amount of vegetable consumption by an increase of 23% when compared with basic labels, 33% increase in consumption compared with the healthy but restrictive labeling, and a 16% increase compared with the healthy and positive labeling.

The study sheds light on the cultural mindset that people have regarding the lesser taste and appeal of healthy foods. Society identifies with the concept that, the unhealthier a food item gets, the tastier it is. And, there is room for further studies in this area that would highlight the potential of replicating the success of pushing healthier foods and to increase their consumption through subtle yet effective changes to descriptions. Dieticians and nutritionists all over concur that our attitude towards food is steered more through behavior and perception and less through taste and nutrition. Therefore, small steps and alterations like those undertaken by the Stanford University study show us how to increase the appeal of healthier food habits and better choice in food.

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