How Veggies Make The Meal (Their Hedonic And Heroic Impact)

November 28, 2012

Even though vegetables are known to be healthful, they are served at only 23% of American dinners. Chicken, steak, pasta, pizza, these classic dishes make the core of family meals.
Provided that better nutrition value alone doesn’t seem enough of an incentive to consume more veggies; are there other ways to promote the consumption of vegetables besides the “better for you” claim? What psychological motivation to include vegetables in meals exist?
A team of researchers at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab explored the topic; investigating whether serving vegetables changes the perception of an entrée’s taste as well as the perception of the cook.
To their own surprise, they discovered that serving vegetables improved taste expectations not only for the entrées, but for the whole meal as well.
Furthermore, serving a vegetable with a meal also enhanced perceptions of the cook. They were evaluated as being more thoughtful and attentive as well as less lazy, boring, and self-absorbed.
In other words, vegetables positively influenced the hedonic expectations of the meal and the heroic impact of the cook.

The study

The study consisted of two phases. 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.
Those rating meals that included a vegetable gave significantly higher ratings to dishes such as chicken, steak and pasta. The results showed that meals were favored when a vegetable was included, such as steak versus steak with broccoli.
They also chose much more positive descriptors for the meal preparer that served a vegetable.


One explanation of why vegetables may “make the meal” is that they might lead one to infer that the meal is being made with more effort or thought. An increased amount of effort and thought could suggest the meal is prepared with more consideration or ‘love’ and may be therefore tastier.
When vegetables were served, the meal was also perceived as ‘more special’ and make the meal feel more ‘family like’ as well as to the more health-related associations such as vegetables ‘make the meal more complete’ and ‘make the meal healthier’.
In short, this study shows new hedonic and heroic motivations for serving vegetables: (i) they increase the hedonic appeal of the meal; and (ii) they increase the heroic aspect of the cook.
If you want to be a hero in your own kitchen, just add veggies to your meals and enjoy the nutritional AND emotional benefits they will provide!  

The above story is reprinted from materials provided Cornell University Food And Brand Lab, via Eurekalert!


  1. This is super interesting!

  2. I never understand when people don't like veggies and hardly eat them. they make every meal better!