Washington: Addition of a vegetable to a meal can enhance perceptions of both the meal and the person who prepared it, according to a study.
The study by researchers Brian Wansink, Misturu Shimizu and Adam Brumberg consisted of two phases. Twenty-two laddering interviews were conducted, followed by a national survey of 500 American mothers with two or more children under the age of 18.
The survey asked participants to evaluate meals served either with or without vegetables as well as a cook who did or did not include a vegetable with a dinner time meal.
Participants were also asked to choose from a list of twelve attributes, such as “selfish” or “loving”, to describe the meal preparer. No respondent saw both versions of the meal or meal preparer. The survey also asked questions regarding children’s favorite vegetable.
Those rating meals that included a vegetable gave significantly higher ratings to dishes such as chicken, steak and pasta on a variety of dimensions including “tasty” and “loving”.
The results showed that meals were favored when a vegetable was included, such as steak vs. steak with broccoli (score of 7.00 as opposed to 8.08), but also received better descriptions such as “loving” for the same meal (7.00 vs. 7.92).
They also chose much more positive descriptors for the meal preparer that served a vegetable, including much more frequent selection of “thoughtful”, “attentive” and “capable” accompanied by a decrease in the selections of “neglectful”, “selfish” and boring.
Overall, vegetables “made the meal”, not only in terms of enhancing expectations of the main dish but in terms of creating a better perception of the cook as well.
Some interesting insights concerning children’s favorite vegetables were also uncovered. Most participants easily recalled their children’s favorite vegetable, with over a dozen different vegetables receiving multiple mentions.
Interestingly, vegetable preference changed with age; broccoli was the overall favorite for older children, with carrots and corn topping the list for the younger kids.