South Korean activists clad in masks symbolizing fruits and vegetables parade to promote vegetarian food in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, February 22, 2009. [Agencies]
In a new study, 186 four-year-olds were given regular carrots and, on other lunch days, they were given the same vegetables renamed X-ray Vision Carrots. On the latter days, they ate nearly twice as many.
The study suggests the influence of these names might persist.
Children continued to eat about 50 percent more carrots even on the days when they were no longer labeled as anything special.
The research, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was presented at the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association in Washington, DC.
"Cool names can make for cool foods," says lead author Brian Wansink of Cornell University. "Whether it be 'power peas' or 'dinosaur broccoli trees,' giving a food a fun name makes kids think it will be more fun to eat. And it seems to keep working - even the next day," Wansink said.
Similar results have been found with adults. A restaurant study showed that when the Seafood Filet was changed to Succulent Italian Seafood Filet, sales increased 28 percent and taste rating increased by 12 percent. "Same food, but different expectations, and a different experience," said Wansink, author of "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think."
The veggie study was conducted in pre-schools, but the researchers believe the same naming tricks can work with children at home.
"I've been using this with my kids," said researcher Collin Payne, "Whatever sparks their imagination seems to spark their appetite."