X-ray Vision Carrots and Power Punch Broccoli

Giving vegetables exciting names is a low-cost, easy solution to getting kids to eat more vegetables, according to Cornell University. In a yet to be published paper, research shows that children will eat more vegetables if they are renamed to something more enticing.

In the studies, vegetables were renamed in school cafeterias and showed a marked increase in uptake. Children ate 66% of the labelled ‘X-ray vision carrots’ compared to 35% left unlabelled.

And in the school that served Power Punch Broccoli, Tiny Tasty Tree Tops, Silly Dilly Green Beans, vegetable consumption went up a whopping 99%.

But X-ray vision carrots are a lie

Carrots don’t improve your eyesight. The myth originated in World War II as propaganda to hide the fact that Britain was using radar to  intercept Nazi bombers attacking at night.

The only skerrick of truth in the carrot and night-vision story is that those suffering from Vitamin A deficiency may develop nyctalopia or night blindness and adding carrots to the diet will help with this. Not really the same as an X-ray vision carrot now is it?

But does that matter?

Is it right to give vegetables cutesy/mythic names? Is imbuing them with attributes in such a way another form of cartoonifying or anthropomorphising them? And anthropomorphism does understandably have its haters. Am I really an uptight vege purist?

WWII carrot propaganda

WWII carrot propaganda. Image from The UK Carrot Museum.

So long as kids are eating them, I don’t care. So although part of me is going, “Ick, really?’ the practical side of me is going, “Hell yeah!” If we are stuck in a world where marketing to kids is an accepted norm, and unfortunately that seems to be the case, than let’s use that power for good and get those kids cartoonifying vegetables. Imagine if the vegetable department of the supermarket was as exciting as the confectionary aisle, with the same marketing ploys as say M&M’s.

What do you think – insipid or inspired? What have you done to get your kids eating more veges? Let us know in the comments.


Study reference: Catchy vegetable names increase affinity for greens.

Wansink, Brian, Just, David R., Payne, Collin R., & Klinger, Matthew. (2012). Attractive Names Sustain Increased Vegetable Intake in Schools. Preventive Medicine, forthcoming.

You can read the most excellent adventures of the carrot in wartime England at the Carrot Museum.

Anthropomorphism: The psychological malady that launched a thousand stories