photo: Masahiro Ihara via Flickr

Does the mere mention of broccoli send your kids running in the opposite direction? Getting kids to eat their vegetables can be one of the toughest challenges of parenting, but according to new research it can be as simple as the words you choose.

Researchers at Stanford University recently conducted an experiment in getting people to eat vegetables which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. They spent one month relabeling vegetable dishes at the university cafeteria. Each day they used four different types of labels to describe vegetable dishes. The “basic,” which simply named the vegetable (“green beans”), one that focused on the health benefits (“nutrient-rich green beans”), another that highlighted the health benefits, but with less exciting words, (“reduced-sodium green beans”) and last, one that used indulgent language, (“rich, buttery green beans”). Although the foods all had different labels, they were all prepared exactly the same.

The results showed that choosing your words wisely applies successfully to tempting taste buds. The indulgent labels resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable than the basic label, 41% more chose them over the restrictive, or less exciting, healthy descriptor and 35% more than the positive healthy descriptor. There were no significant differences in selections between the basic, healthy restrictive and healthy positive labels.

So what does it mean for getting kids to eat their vegetables? It’s all in your sales pitch. Channel your inner Don Draper and use your vocabulary to sell kids on broccoli with language that makes it sound more delicious, even when it’s simply the same.

How do you get your kids to eat their veggies? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.