Exciting Food Names Promote Healthful Choices

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BREAKING MEDICAL NEWS June 14, 2017

Exciting Food Names Promote Healthful Choices

June 14, 2017

What's in a Name?

Labeling healthful food options exciting or alluring names increases the likelihood that people will choose those foods, according to research published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers at Stanford University labeled vegetables in the cafeteria using one of four styles, including basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive, or indulgent names, and assessed people’s food choices and portion sizes for a specified period of time. The cafeteria made no changes in food preparation. For example, basic “butternut squash” had the healthy restrictive label “butternut squash with no added sugar,” the healthy positive label of “antioxidant-rich butternut squash,” and the indulgent label “twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges.” Indulgent labels increased the likelihood of both a purchase of the vegetable and a larger serving size when compared to the other stylized names. These findings suggest marketing techniques focus less on promoting health benefits and nutrients and more on tantalizing descriptors of foods in order to increase purchases of foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Turnwald BP, Boles DZ, Crum AJ. Association between indulgent descriptions and vegetable consumption: twisted carrots and dynamite beets. JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 12, 2017.

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