Take two menu items: “slow-roasted caramelized zucchini bites” and “nutritious green zucchini.” Science says you’re more likely to pick the first. That’s just some of the findings in a new study that tested using different language to describe vegetables, which could be an important factor in the quest to get people to eat less meat.
“We know how we label food can have substantial effects on both what people choose to eat and the experience they have while they’re eating,” says Bradley Turnwald, a graduate psychology student at Stanford University and lead author of the study. (Some previous lab studies found that if you label food as healthy, people will rate it as less delicious, less filling, and less enjoyable than the same food without the label. Despite this fact, Turnwald says, most healthy foods are currently marketed with a focus on their health properties rather than taste or indulgence.)
The study is one of several to look at how to persuade consumers to eat more plant-based foods, either for health reasons or because of the environmental impact of the standard meat-heavy American diet. A shift to more vegetables and less meat would especially impact climate. If everyone in the world became vegan by 2050, according to a 2016 study, food-related carbon emissions would be cut 70%. Even if everyone simply ate less meat than projected, emissions could drop nearly 30%.
There are signs that diets are already changing. In one 2016 survey, more than half of Americans said that they wanted to eat more plant-based foods. Another survey found that 59% of consumers already ate meatless meals once a week. Beef consumption dropped 19% between 2005 and 2014. But another survey found that overall meat consumption changed little over the last few years.
The Better Buying Lab, an initiative of the global…