In Children, Nutrition May Call for X-Ray Vision Carrots

Cool names inspire kids—and parents—to eat healthfully.

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Want your children to eat healthful food? Serve them X-Ray Vision Carrots! That's the news from researchers at Cornell University, who tested this on 186 four-year-olds. They ate almost twice as many X-Ray Vision Carrots as they did plain old baby carrots. The children kept eating about 50 percent more carrots even after the superhero names were discontinued.

The great news for parents: The carrots were one and the same. Cool names make for cool foods, according to researcher Brian Wansink, who tested the supercharged veggie names. He is a professor of marketing at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think Wansink points out that the attraction to glammed-up names isn't unique to kids; grown-ups go for seductive descriptions on restaurant menus in a big way. In one memorable study, he found that adults thought a California cabernet much more delightful than a North Dakota wine. Both bottles were actually "Two-Buck Chuck" from Trader Joe's.

But here's a chance to use the power of marketing for the good of your family's health. Rebrand the veggies! What's your cool food name? My 5-year-old gobbles up broccoli trees and broccoli frogs. But I could use some new inspiration beyond Red Pepper Rings and Fabulous Flying Fennel. Please comment: What's the most mouthwatering, fun food name? Luke Skywalker Light-Saber Lentils? Bring 'em on!

Yes, we're fools when it comes to food, but my colleague Katie Hobson gives 7 practical ways to eat better and shed pounds despite our gullibility. She also points out that parents' obsessions with superhealthful organic food may be turning our kids into paranoid, picky eaters. The bottom-line advice: Eat brightly colored foods, and supersize only the water jug.