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Jazzing Up Vegetable Names Makes Kids Eat More of Them

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Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Broccoli, or Tiny Tasty Tree Tops - FLICKR/BEN SUTHERLAND
Kids, kids, kids. If Tom Sawyer told you it was fun to paint a fence, would you do it for him while he kicked back? Clearly, you would.

A new study suggests that spicing up the names of vegetables, such as calling broccoli "Power Punch Broccoli," will get kids to eat them more, ABC News reports.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, exposed more than 1,000 kids in seven New York elementary schools to lunchtime vegetable choices with and without innovative names like "Silly Dilly Green Beans," "Tiny Tasty Tree Tops" and "X-ray Vision Carrots."

Kids exposed to the "re-branded" veggies ate twice as many compared to vegetables listed only as "Food of the Day." Marketing manipulation starts young!

In a second part of the study, the proportion of students picking hot servings of vegetables with special labels nearly doubled over two months. Conversely, in schools that didn't display vegetables with the exciting new names, the percentage of students who selected a vegetable serving declined by 16.2%.

"Giving anything a name goes a long way for making somebody believe it will taste better," said the study's lead author, Brian Wansink, an evil professor of marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

(Obviously, adults are targeted with this kind of thing all the time -- how else do you explain I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Ho Hos?)

"It doesn't matter what they call it," Wansink added. "Anything that makes it sound unusual or special has impact ... We find any names work perfectly fine."

These findings are part of the "Smarter Lunchrooms Movement" that Wansink has spearheaded to assist school cafeterias in helping students eat better. He advocates subtle changes to nudge kids in a healthier direction -- many of which are included in a list of nefarious strategies that are posted on his "Smarter Lunchrooms Movement" website. Examples: "Move all 'competitive snack foods' behind the serving counter," "Place white milk in the front of the cooler, in front of or before the sugar-added beverages."

(On behalf of the nation's kids, we really hate this guy.)

Wansink also suggests parents try the technique at home. "The Dog Doesn't Want Your Brussels Sprouts"? "Cauliflower Is Really Candy"? "Eat Your Peas or Go to Your Room"?


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