Your Kid Won’t Eat His Vegetables? Give Them a Spiffy New Name

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Stack of carrots at farmers market.

Editor’s Note: The study upon which this story is based has been retracted by Preventive Medicine, the journal in which it was published. JAMA, a separate network of journals, has also retracted several other studies by the same researcher. “Cornell University has notified JAMA that based on its investigation they are unable to provide assurances regarding the scientific validity of the six studies,” JAMA said in a statement. “Therefore, the six articles reporting the results of these studies … are hereby retracted.”

Some call it a trick. Others say its sly marketing. Either way, a new study shows that if we make vegetables sound exciting, kids will eat them. Basically, the thinking goes, since it works for junk food, why not try it for healthy food too?

Call the healthy options “Tiny Tasty Tree Tops,” “X-Ray Vision Carrots” or “Silly Dilly Green Beans” and 1,000 elementary-age kids in seven New York schools will eat twice as much of them compared to if you simply label them “Food of the Day,” according to a study run by Cornell University and published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine.

(MORE: Q&A: White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass on Healthy Eating)

Brian Wansink, a marketing professor and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, told ABC News it really isn’t all that hard to do what he did. He utilized the help of a high school sophomore to come up with some goofy names and track the eating habits of the youngsters. In the study, he found students exposed to produce with the fun names ate 66 percent of their vegetables, while the boring-named veggies were eaten by students just 32 percent of the time.

Wansink wants school cafeterias to pay attention to the study, according to ABC News, imploring them to devise strategies to improve healthy eating. He says that really any name that makes a food “sound unusual or special has impact” on a student’s eating habits, whether at school or at home.

He claims that students are really in the cafeteria to hang out with their friends anyway, so grabbing their attention with a catchy name may be the only way to get them to dish up some all-natural vegetables on their tray.

It may seem silly to name your greens “Power Punch Broccoli” rather than just ask students to eat them. But Wansink says it works.

MORE: Mixed Grades for New, Healthy School Lunch Rules