Certain vegetable descriptions make them more appealing


Many people struggle to hit the target of eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Scientists from the University of Stanford in California have now found simply giving greens enticing descriptions may make them more appealing.

The team looked at the vegetables students were most likely to opt for in their university canteens.

They found produce with an enticing description like ‘glazed’, ‘sizzling’ or even ‘tavern-style’ was nearly a third (29%) more likely to be selected.

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Focusing on a food’s taste over its nutritional value may boost uptake by making it more ‘indulgent, comforting and nostalgic’, the scientists said.

“It increases the expectation of a positive taste experience,” study author Alia Crum, assistant professor of psychology, said.

“References to ingredients such as ‘garlic’ or ‘ginger’ and words that highlight experience, such as ‘sizzling’ or ‘tavern-style’, help convey the dish is not only tasty but also indulgent, comforting, or nostalgic.”

Some 29% of us are more likely to select vegetables if they’re described as ‘sizzling’, ‘glazed’ or ‘tavern-style’ [Photo: Getty]

Fruit and vegetables are rich in health-boosting vitamins and minerals, as well as being a good source of fibre.

Research has consistently shown eating plenty of fresh, frozen or even canned produce reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity and certain cancers.

But despite their benefits, many find the bland taste of broccoli or the bitter kick of kale difficult to stomach.

To uncover whether appetising descriptions could overcome this, the scientists looked at university students across 57 colleges in the US.

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Over 26 weeks, the canteens labelled 24 different types of vegetables with either taste-enhancing, healthy or neutral descriptions.

Results – published in the journal Psychological Science – found dishes given appealing labels were 29% more likely to be eaten than those whose health properties were highlighted.

The tasty dishes were also 14% more likely to be selected than those with neutral labels.

The scientists concluded “emphasising tasty and enjoyable attributes increases vegetable intake”.

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Although encouraging, they note lowering the cost of healthy food may be the single most effective way of boosting its uptake.

The UK government introduced the concept of 5 A Day in 2003. It recommends people aim for five portions of different fruit and vegetables, each weighing 80g, a day. Fresh, frozen, canned, juiced or dried all count.

Although intended to be an achievable goal, research suggests as few as a quarter of Britons hit the daily target.

The situation is even worse in the US, were just one in 10 adults are thought to meet the recommendation of at least two cups of fruit and three of vegetables a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization estimates 1.7 million deaths worldwide are down to low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Poor intake is also linked to 14% of gastrointestinal cancers, 11% of heart disease deaths and nine per cent of strokes globally, statistics show.

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