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Sept 17, 2012 by APRIL McCARTHY
Using Catchy Vegetable Names Makes Children More Likely To Eat Greens

Would you rather eat "carrots" or "crunchy yummy carrots"? Or, if you’re a youngster, "X-Ray Vision Carrots"? Kids seem to have an aversion to eating vegetables, but can this be changed? Simply changing the name associated with a vegetable can often change a child's perception of the taste. A group of studies shows how catchy vegetable names influence kid's consumption of healthy foods.

Previous work conducted by Wansink et al., in 2005 revealed that sensory perceptions of descriptive foods are better than plain dishes with no fancy descriptors.

Infants are surprisingly adventurous from the age of 6 months to 13 months, a critical time for the formation of their future preferences. They can learn to like almost anything, although it may take six to 10 tastings. Yet few parents make the most of this crucial window. Research shows that 94% of parents give up offering new foods after only five tries,

In the first study, plain old carrots were transformed into "X-ray Vision Carrots." 147 students ranging from 8-11 years old from 5 ethnically and economically diverse schools participated in tasting the cool new foods. Lunchroom menus were the same except that carrots were added on three consecutive days. On the first and last days, carrots remained unnamed. On the second day, the carrots were served as either "X-ray Vision Carrots" or "Food of the Day." Although the amount of carrots selected was not impacted by the 3 different naming conditions the amount eaten was very much so. By changing the carrots to "X-ray vision carrots", a whopping 66% were eaten, far greater than the 32% eaten when labeled "Food of the Day" and 35% eaten when unnamed. The success of the changes is stupendous, and the fun, low cost nature of the change makes it all the more enticing.

In the second study, carrots became "X-Ray vision carrots," broccoli did a hulk like morph into "Power Punch Broccoli" along with "Tiny Tasty Tree Tops" and "Silly Dilly Green Beans" replaced regular old green beans to give them more pizzazz. Researchers looked at food sales over two months in two neighboring NYC suburban schools. For the first month, both schools offered unnamed food items, while on the second month carrots, broccoli and green beans were given the more attractive names, only in one of the schools (the treatment school.) Of the 1,552 students involved 47.8% attended the treatment school. The results were outstanding: vegetable purchases went up by 99% in the treatment school, while in the other school vegetable sales declined by 16%!

Nearly 25% of our meals today come from fast food, compared with 10% of meals two decades ago. The reason for the most part is convenience and caving to children's demands. Food scientists have mastered the art of manufacturing food satisying to the taste buds but extermely low and almost toxic nutritionally. Sweeteners, MSG, emulsifers, preservatives and genetically modified foods a re mostly to blame.

These results of Wasinik's research demonstrates that using attractive names for healthy foods can give kids a new start in perceiving healthy foods as favorable to their palate.

Fast foods and processed food manufacturers have also caught on renaming many of their traditional preparations in an effort to entice children. Previous research has established that TV advertisements that aggressively market junk food to children contribute to the growing obesity epidemic and continues without regulation.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study it said provides a way to measure the companies’ progress. The foundation, a nonprofit group that focuses on health care issues, found that 50 percent of ad time on children’s shows is devoted to food. Among the ads aimed at children and teenagers, 72 percent are for candy, snacks, sugary cereals or fast food.

These advertisements "are largely for products that children should be eating less of, not more of, if we’re going to get a handle on childhood obesity," said Victoria J. Rideout, director of the foundation’s program for the study of entertainment media and health.

The foundation was also responsible for the first comprehensive review of food marketing to children on the Web, the research found 85% of leading brands that target kids in TV ads also have games and other material on the Internet. More than 500 "advergames" such as Hershey's Syrup Squirt, LifeSavers Boardwalk Bowling and M&Ms Trivia Game were offered on 77 websites.

Children's networks have the highest percentage of food-related commercials. Food advertisements are predominately for sugary cereals and sweets, high fat food, convenience or fast-food restaurant food, and chips/crackers. When compared to television for a general audience, children's networks expose young viewers to 76% more food commercials per hour than the other networks, with the Saturday morning 7-10 AM time slot being more saturated with food commercials. Approximately 7.7 food commercials per hour appear in programming on the children's networks, which is approximately 1 food commercial every 8 minutes.

Attractive name intervention is robust, effective and scalable at little or no cost to improve children's eating habits. Attractive names to make foods sound more appealing works on individuals across all age levels. The key is to make interventions with healthy foods before the junk food industry makes their own.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

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