A study in the journal Environment and Behavior found that if you keep fruits and vegetables close by in a clear bowl, you’re more likely to eat them. On the other hand, making them more visible could increase your intake of fruit but not vegetables.
Using 96 college students, researchers placed apple slices and carrot cuts in clear or opaque bowls, either at a nearby table or about seven feet away. Researchers unwrapped these two foods and told students to help themselves.
They discovered two things:
- When they left these students alone with the carrots or apples for 10 minutes, students were more likely to eat them when they were positioned close by rather than seven feet away.
- When researchers offered these foods in clear bowls, they found students ate more apples but not carrots.
“Apples, but not carrots, have sugar, which is known to stimulate brain reward regions that induce a ‘wanting’ for foods that contain sugar,” researchers said. “Hence, apple slices may be more visually appealing than carrots.” Actually, a cup of carrots do have about six grams of sugar, but I get what researchers are saying. People more likely gravitate to a sweeter, aesthetically pleasing fruit than a vegetable. Researchers concluded students would eat more fruits and vegetables if positioned near where they enter or sit (at, say, a school cafeteria), and when produce is more visible.
I think this study reveals more about choices. Cut out opportunities to choose junk foods and you’re less likely to eat them. I can’t help wondering what would have happened if, say, researchers put a bowl of Snickers bars beside those apples. Unless these were really health-conscious students, my bet would be on the Snickers bars disappearing fast.
Everyone needs to increase fruit and vegetable intake. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s one of those things we nod our heads in agreement about but don’t always do. Admittedly, with our hectic lives, eating fresh broccoli or blueberries isn’t always convenient.
Here are 10 simple strategies to meet your quota:
- Upgrade your salad greens. Instead of Romaine or (God forbid) iceberg lettuce, opt for nutrient-packed spinach or kale.
- Dump the starch for another vegetable. Swap the potato or rice for, say, saut?ed spinach in garlic. Just as satisfying with far more nutrients and less carbs.
- Make fresh or frozen fruit your dessert of choice. Have you tried frozen cherries or grapes in Greek yogurt? The fruit freezes the yogurt on contact, making this a healthy less-sugar alternative to Ben & Jerry’s for the hot days ahead.
- Try a new vegetable or fruit at the farmers market. Make it an adventure and pick something like kohlrabi that you’ve never had before.
- Venture out on your restaurant vegetable choices. Why is it that vegetables always taste better at restaurants? Regardless, order kimchi or another arcane vegetable you wouldn’t prepare at home.
- Make vegetables into starch alternatives. Instead of mashed potatoes, make faux-tatoes (mashed cauliflower). I’m not going to say you won’t notice the difference, but it’s pretty darn close and far healthier. Or swap the fries for baked sweet potato fries.
- Snack on apple slices with almond butter. Delicious, sweet, crunchy, and easy to make. Even your most finicky eater or sugarholic will love these.
- Bring a vegetable or fruit tray to your next party. Skip (or cut down) on the pastries and other carb bombs and enjoy fresh broccoli or cauliflower with delicious dips like hummus instead.
- Make a veggie omelet for breakfast (or any meal). An easy way to disguise tons of vegetables.
- Top your protein with salsa and/ or guacamole. These nutrient- and fiber-rich toppings make grilled chicken or grass-fed steak even more flavorful and enjoyable.
Just to make sure I have all my bases covered I always add powdered veggies and powdered fruits to my morning smoothie.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, (aka The Nutrition Myth Buster) is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He is a board-certified nutritionist with a master’s degree in psychology and the best-selling author of 14 books on health, healing, food and longevity, including three best-sellers, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”, the award-winning “Living Low Carb” and his latest book, co-written with cardiologist Stephen Sinatra and featured on the Dr. Oz Show, “The Great Cholesterol Myth”.?Visit his website for more nutritional tips.