The Trick to Getting People to Eat Healthy Food May Just Be How You Name It

New research shows that indulgent labeling of healthy food leads consumers to purchase it up to 41% more than other labeling methods.

Person eating a salad

Increasing vegetable intake is one of the most confident recommendations for health a dietitian could make, but most of us know we should be doing it already. The challenge is always making the choice when it’s time to eat. A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found healthy eating may just be a name change away. Researchers at Stanford University tested several different ways of naming vegetable dishes to see which led to the most purchases in student cafeterias.  They found that indulgent descriptions of the vegetable dishes, like ‘buttery roasted sweet corn’, led to more purchases than dishes labeled in a basic way (e.g. ‘corn’) despite both dishes being prepared in the same way.

Researchers also tested two other commonly seen labeling methods for healthy foods, called ‘healthy restrictive’ (e.g. lite, low-fat, low-carb), or healthy positive (e.g. energy boosting), and found indulgent descriptions out-performed the healthy descriptions, as well. These healthy labeling approaches are often used to call attention to healthy options on a menu or packaged food, but this new study shows that it may be best to use labeling on healthy dishes or products to appeal to taste, first, and take a more reserved approach to calling out the health benefits in the name.