RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Could dinosaur broccoli trees turn your toddler into a vegetable-devouring, healthy-eating machine? It seems so. Research out of Cornell University found that children ate 50 percent more vegetables when the nutritious morsels were given cool names.
THE DETAILS: The study hasn’t been published yet, but the findings were unveiled earlier this month at the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association in Washington, D.C. Brian Wansink, PhD, author of author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantham) and Prevention.com blogger, and fellow researchers studied 186 4-year-olds in preschool and found they ate 50 percent more carrots called “X-ray Vision Carrots” than they did on lunch days when they were just plain old carrots. And the children continued to eat 50 percent more vegetables over the next few days. “Cool names can make for cool foods,” Wansink says. “Giving a food a fun name makes kids think it will be more fun to eat. And it seems to be working, even the next day.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health advocacy group, funded the study.
WHAT IT MEANS: Restaurateurs already know this trick: Wansick discovered a few years ago that names of restaurant foods can make people eat more. For instance, when the “Seafood Filet” menu item was changed to a more dramatic “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet,” sales increased by 28 percent and taste rating jumped 12 percent. His latest work shows kids aren’t immune to the name game, either, and suggests parents can use it to get them to eat their vegetables.
Here’s how to inspire your tots to eat more veggies:
• Play the name game. Kids are creative, and if we want them to eat more veggies, we should have fun renaming them. First, know what sparks your child’s interest. Wansink’s two daughters, ages 2 and 4, generally like vegetables, but when he calls veggies things like “princess peas” or “pretty peas,” they love them. “Pretty, pink, and dinosaurs usually work,” Wansink says.
To help you get started, we, brainstormed new names for these vegetables from this week’s menu at the Rodale lunchroom:
• Asparagus: green arrows, unicorn horns, ninja sticks
• Corn: goblin teeth, gold nuggets, pirate food
• Mashed potatoes: smooshed cloud explosion, scrambled dinosaur eggs, robot chow
• Butternut squash: super power cubes, super-delicious-happy-dinosaur-alien-princess-rainbow-treat
• Don’t make your kids clear their plates. Forcing your children to ingest every last bit of food on the plate could turn them into overeaters. According to a 2008 study, children who were forced to eat everything on their plate will go on to eat 43 percent more snacks.