broccoli

Broccoli Treetops and X-Ray Vision Carrots? Getting Kids Interested in Veggies

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album

Reviewed by Linda Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

This post is in honor of National Nutrition Month.

Has your child eaten his broccoli today? No? What about his “Tiny Tasty Treetops”?

You might not think that giving the same exact vegetable a new name could make a difference. But according to 2012 research published in the journal Preventive Medicine, this simple change could have a surprising impact.

Does a Fun Name Make Veggies More Appealing?

Researchers performed two studies to test whether catchy names would influence elementary school students’ consumption of vegetables at lunch. In the first study, carrots were offered as a regular choice with no special name, then as the “Food of the Day,” then as “X-Ray Vision Carrots.” Researchers tracked the number of carrots students took and how much they ate under each of these conditions.

The names didn’t seem to affect how many carrots children took. However, when carrots went by the “X-Ray Vision” name, the children ate twice as many of them. (No such effect was seen with the “Food of the Day” carrots.) What’s more, students who got carrots with this name were more likely to choose carrots at future lunches!

Simple Change Made a Difference

In the second study, two schools first offered identical menus for 20 days. Then, in one school, researchers renamed the cooked veggies, calling them things like “Silly Dilly Green Beans” and “Power Punch Broccoli.” These names had been thought up by a high school sophomore and were not tested ahead of time.  But they had a huge impact, increasing the proportion of students choosing to take a cooked vegetable by a whopping 99% over the course of two months.

Studies show that adults are more likely to pick healthy foods in a cafeteria when they’re given an appealing name. And of course, we all know how restaurants try to “sell” us on menu options through the use of alluring names and descriptions.

However, this “tweak” hadn’t been shown to work with kids in a school lunchroom till now. As the researchers point out, this type of intervention is both simple and free, making it a great option for cafeterias and families alike. Would anyone like another serving of treetops?

(Photo credit: broccoli at the farmers market by Tom Donald. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Cropped.)

References:

Wansink, B., Just, D. R., Payne, C. R., & Klinger, M. Z. (2012). Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools. Preventative Medicine, 55(4), 330-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.07.012

(Originally published in a slightly different form as: Church, C. (2012). Changing vegetable names makes them more appealing. [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL:  University of Florida.)

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