The Secret to Pushing Veggies? Seduction

Beets in a basket.
Beets are at their best when they are harvested small. Yvegenia Shal/Shutterstock

Many of us may remember our first meeting with broccoli. Mom put wings on it and whirled the fork through the air, pretending it was the tiniest airplane.

Only sometimes, that plane crashed hard into the jaws of defeat.

Nope. Not gonna eat that.

Picky eater faces off with broccoli
Pleeeeze don't make me eat that. Angela Waye/Shutterstock

Presentation matters

It turns out not much has changed for adults. According to a recent Stanford University study, grown-ups eat a lot more vegetables when they’re presented with a certain flare.

Of course, we’re not going to fall for Air Fork One any more. But researchers did borrow an old trick from mom’s playbook: they changed the labels. And they took it a step further by adding a little more mature content.

"Labels really can influence our sensory experience, affecting how tasty and filling we think food will be," researcher Brad Turnwald tells BBC News. "So we wanted to reframe how people view vegetables, using indulgent labels."

For each day of the experiment — which spanned a fall semester — cafeteria vegetables were given one of four labels.

There was the no-frills approach, with carrots being labeled simply as carrots.

Then there was the health-restrictive label. So, for example, "carrots with sugar-free dressing."

The third label took it a step further, emphasizing the net health positive: "smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots."

And the final label? Indulgent.

Those carrots suddenly became "twisted citrus-glazed carrots."

carrots photo
You're serving twisted carrots? Well, why didn't you say so?. Asda

Of course, the featured dish was swapped out from week to week — beans, squash, corn — to prevent vegetable fatigue, but the results, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, give us even more to chew on.

Researchers noted a 25 percent increase in veggie sales when the offerings were given titillating titles compared their more modestly clad counterparts.

Moreover, an astounding 41 percent more people picked the seductively named vegetables over those with the healthy restrictive labeling. And the sultry offerings attracted 35 percent more people than the healthy positive labeling.

We may grow up and get jobs and use the airplane method to deliver precious broccoli to our own children, but it turns out that our own palates never grow up. But they do, apparently, reach puberty.