Parents who serve a vegetable at dinner — even one from a frozen package — are perceived as being more loving and a better a cook, according to new research at Cornell Food and Brand Lab.
The first study involved 500 American mothers who were presented with one of five common meat-based hypothetical meals that either came with a side vegetable or no vegetable.
The five meals included entrees such as steak, chicken, and lasagna and sides such as potatoes, broccoli, and breadsticks. Participants who were presented with a meal that included a vegetable, such as broccoli, indicated that the main dish would taste better and that the server was a better cook.
“Simply having a vegetable on the plate made the whole meal be perceived as tastier,” said lead author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Slim by Design, “Even if they didn’t particularly like the vegetable.”
In the second study, the participants read a day-in-the-life story of a woman named Valerie. They followed her activities as she woke up, went to work, ran errands, made dinner for her family and finally watched TV with her husband before going to sleep.
In one version of the story she cooked frozen green beans with dinner and in the other version she didn’t. Once the participants finished reading the story, they were asked to describe Valerie as a person. When Valerie’s day included serving green beans she was more likely to be described as “thoughtful”, “attentive”, and “capable.” When she was not described as cooking a vegetable, she was more often described as “neglectful,” “selfish” and “boring.”
Families are most likely to prepare and eat vegetables at dinner time, yet research has shown that only about 23 percent of dinners contain a full serving of vegetables.
“If families want to eat more vegetables, dinner’s the place to start. If you serve vegetables at dinner, not only will your family think you’re a better cook, they’ll also think you’re a more loving parent,” said Wansink.
“Within two days of discovering this, I changed the way I cook. I no longer say I’m too tired to make a vegetable. If nothing else, at least I open up a can of green beans.”
The findings will be presented at the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior’s Annual Conference 2015 in Pittsburgh.
Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab