(Originally Published In The June 16th Edition Of Exposure Magazine.)
A couple weeks ago, we talked about how making your food with a variety of color tends to make it more attractive to eat. Interestingly enough, this week I learned that people are also affected by what vegetables or foods are named. Research suggests that similar thinking persists in young adults. In a research letter published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine Bradley Turnwald, Danielle Boles, and Alia Crum explain that people in a university cafeteria were much more likely to eat vegetables labeled with indulgent descriptions than vegetables labeled in a descriptive way or in a way that highlighted their health benefits. It definitely points to how much the brain is involved in our eating preferences. We are attracted by what it is called and also by what it looks like. I know this is true for me and for many others as well. When I am searching for a new recipe on Pinterest or a recipe site, I am always drawn to recipes that provide pictures and descriptions. Words are important. How it looks is great, but how it fuels your body is most important.
You can create a menu that looks, sounds, and tastes great, and still fuels your perfectly designed body. I encourage parents to use menu planning with their children. Help them understand that food is fuel, and should look appealing. Let your children create a fun and nutritious menu and encourage them to name the menu items. Discuss what the meal will look like, what vitamins are in certain foods, and when it comes time to choose a vegetable or fruit, ask them what they think would be a nice color and flavor to go with the rest of the meal. This kind of creative meal planning will help you avoid the starch laden, repetitious meals of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and corn. If you have young kids, a better way to teach is to simply have pictures. You can print, laminate, and attach a magnet to the back of each picture. You can sort the various food groups and help them pick the meal based on balanced nutrition, color and content. As part of their morning routine, post the pictures of what the nights meal will be on the refrigerator. When my three children were young, each family member was responsible for choosing a dinner menu for one day a week. We planned the whole months meals at one time and I wrote it all out by hand. It was always posted so that everyone knew what was coming. Grocery shopping was much easier and efficient. Each dinner had to have a main dish, a side dish and vegetable or fruit. We also always had to choose two out of three items on the menu that everyone liked. I was the master of the planning so we didn’t eat the same thing 3 times in a week. My husband and I chose last so we could provide variety. This was a truly joyful experience and one that helped our children learn about food pairing, balancing a meals nutrition, color and variety. If we had only known we could have named the meatloaf Marvelous Mouthwatering Meatloaf instead! I think we might have missed out on a bit of fun!
These are my older blog posts, which originally appeared in my Exposure Magazine Column, "Healthy Living."