Objective:Giving vegetables attractive names has been recently shown to increase their sales in cafeterias. Using this technique to improve healthier eating among children raises three key questions: 1) would attractive naming work with all ages of school children, 2) would they eat what they take, and 3) would this persist over time and be scalable?
Methods:Study 1 compared how many shoestring carrots 208 preschoolers in Head Start programs served and ate when caregivers verbally identified them with an attractive name (“X-Ray Vision Carrots”), as “Food or the Day,” or simply as carrots. Study 2 was conducted for two months in two elementary schools (n=1017) to determine if using attractively named signs was persistently effective with older children who could read the signs themselves. Three hot vegetable side dishes were either given or not given descriptive names and their daily sales were recorded.
Results:Study 1 found that an attractive name (X-Ray Vision carrots) led preschoolers to eat 68.9% more of their carrots than when they were unnamed or named as the “Food of the Day.” Study 2 found that elementary school students were 16% more likely to repeatedly and persistently choose more hot vegetable dishes (p < .001) when they were given fun or attractive names.
Discussion:Attractive names effectively and persistently increased healthy food consumption in across a wide range of children – preschool to adolescence. This increase in vegetable selection persists for at least a month, and it can be implemented and executed for negligible cost, even by a high school student volunteer.