“Healthy food labels tout health benefits, yet most people prioritize tastiness in the moment of food choice. In a preregistered intervention, we tested whether taste-focused labels compared with health-focused labels increased vegetable intake at five university dining halls throughout the United States,” wrote researchers in the study published in the journal Psychological Science.
The study found that descriptive and decadent-sounding labels calling out flavor profiles and taste experience such as “twisted citrus glazed carrots” and “ultimate chargrilled asparagus” can nudge people to consume more vegetables than they otherwise would.
“This is radically different from our current cultural approach to healthy eating which, by focusing on health to the neglect of taste, inadvertently instills the mindset that healthy eating is tasteless and depriving,” said Alia Crum, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology.
“And yet in retrospect it’s like, of course, why haven’t we been focusing on making healthy foods more delicious and indulgent all along?”
The study is part of a broader project to make healthy foods more crave-worthy and less like something we tolerate because they’re good for us. That effort also includes Stanford SPARQ’s “Edgy Veggies” toolkit, a step-by step guide for how to implement taste-focused labeling that draws on Crum and Turnwald’s studies.
Observing college students’ eating habits
The research was carried out in collaboration with the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, a nationwide network of 57 colleges and universities researching healthy and sustainable eating habits.