What Happens When Descriptive Labeling Is Used for Vegetables?


Vegetable consumption in a large university cafeteria increased by as much as 41% after changes were made to the food labeling.

Stanford University researchers changed the labeling on the serving bowls of a different vegetable each day for the 2016 autumn academic quarter. Four strategies were deployed for labeling: basic (e.g., "beets"); healthy restrictive (e.g., "lighter-choice beets with no added sugar"); healthy positive (e.g., "high-antioxidant beets"); or indulgent (e.g., "dynamite chili and tangy lime-seasoned beets"). Researchers then recorded the number of people who selected the vegetables and the mass of vegetables taken on a daily basis.  

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Indulgent labeling of vegetables resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable compared with basic labeling, 41% more people than the healthy restrictive labeling and 35% more people than the healthy positive labeling. Labeling vegetables indulgently also resulted in a 23% increase in mass of vegetables consumed compared with basic labeling and a 33% increase in the mass of vegetables consumed compared with the healthy restrictive labeling, but a nonsignificant 16% increase in mass compared with the healthy positive labeling.

The authors concluded that, “Further research should assess how well the effects generalize to other settings and explore the potential of indulgent labeling to help alleviate the pervasive cultural mindset that healthy foods are not tasty.”

For more information visit JAMA.com.