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Tricks to Get Adults to Eat Healthier

Changing the name of healthy foods can have a significant impact on children’s eating habits (as I showed in my video Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at School). Are adults as gullible? Yes. For example, in one study, people actually reported that “traditional Cajun red beans and rice” tasted better than just “red beans with rice,” even though they were both the exact same dish. (How healthy are those beans and rice regardless of what you call them? Check out Beans and the Second Meal Effect).

Back in World War II, domestic meat was in large part shipped overseas, leaving lots of organ meats behind—the hearts, kidneys, brains, stomachs, intestines, and even the feet, ears, and heads of cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens. The challenge was how to encourage people to eat chicken heads and sheep ears. To accomplish this, the Department of Defense evidently enlisted dozens of the brightest, most famous psychologists to determine how dietary changes could be accomplished. Taste wasn’t the problem. People would eat brains as long as you didn’t tell them they were eating brains. (What’s wrong with eating brains? See Avoiding Cholesterol Is a No-Brainer and Foodborne Rabies). So their solution was to invent mystery meat. The answer was to just not tell consumers what they’re eating. And the same can apply with healthy foods.

As with organ meats in the 1940s, the suggestion that a food contains soy may be so powerful that some people convince themselves they do not like the taste. For instance, if someone is given an energy bar that says it has soy protein in it, people tend to rate it as grainy and tasteless, compared to identical bars with no mention of the word soy. In reality, there was no soy in either of the bars. It’s what you call a “phantom ingredient” taste test. Simply the suggested presence of soy made people believe they tasted it, and they evaluated it accordingly. (Does soy deserve its bad rap? No, see Breast Cancer Survival and Soy. They may be overrated in the cholesterol-lowering department, though: Soy Worth a Hill of Beans?) In general, a large percentage of consumers taste what they want to taste.

So can you use the same vegetable sneak attack tactic that has been proven so successful in children on adults?  It turns out that covertly adding hidden pureed vegetables to meals works for adults too—and even for vegetables they didn’t like. It was shown that the adults’ dislike of the vegetables that were incorporated into the entrees did not affect the consumption of the vegetable-enhanced entrees. This indicates that the incorporation of pureed vegetables into entrees increased the intake of vegetables even when the added vegetable was disliked. And of course, the more vegetables you eat, the less calories you get, so we get the twin benefit. Study subjects were eating up to a pound of vegetables a day and 350 fewer calories. Keep that up and one could lose 30 pounds a year without even trying. (Test it out with these recipes: chocolate beet cake or zucchini cookies).

Another way to entice men and women to eat healthier is to appeal to their concerns about sexual function (see 50 Shades of Greens) or vanity:

This is the final of a 3-part video series on practical tips for dietary improvement, after addressing  Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at Home and school.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

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Read more: Family, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Smart Shopping, Videos, Women's Health, , , , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


+ add your own
3:20AM PST on Nov 6, 2014

Thank you!

10:56PM PDT on Jun 6, 2014

Interesting and thanks

2:54AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

Thank you :)

8:21AM PST on Feb 24, 2014

Thanks for sharing

8:12AM PST on Feb 24, 2014


8:56AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Haha, such a mind game. Thank you for posting.

1:58AM PST on Jan 12, 2014


9:16PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

thanks for posting

10:52PM PST on Jan 10, 2014


7:22AM PST on Jan 10, 2014


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Good for her, but I'll stick to my chili recipe.

Thanks for posting.

Thanks so much for sharing


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