Indulgent buzzwords can lead diners to healthier food choices, study finds

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices, according to a recent study out of Stanford University.

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy positive and “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots” for indulgent. Despite the differing labels, each type of green bean was prepared the same way.

After monitoring the number of diners who chose the vegetables (as well as how many of the vegetables were consumed over each lunch period) for the entire academic quarter, researchers found that diners chose vegetables with the indulgent labeling 25% more often than the vegetables with the basic labeling, 35% more often than the healthy positive labeling and 41% more often than the healthy restrictive labeling. 

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After listening to students, the center’s halal options were moved from a self-serve line to a hot entree station. The dining team also updated its signage to better indicate which meals are halal.

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Dining staff say the truck was introduced to give students more dining options as well as reaffirm the school’s commitment to sustainability.

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