When children refuse to eat their greens there’s a variety of tactics parents can employ to force the issue. Whether that’s pretending the fork containing said vegetables is an aeroplane, or grim threats of a pudding ban for those who spurn broccoli.

You’d hope that most adults wouldn’t require such cajoling to eat their vegetables – they are, after all, delicious. However, a survey by charity Diabetes UK this week found that 66% of British adults eat three or fewer portions of fruit and veg a day, so clearly we are all still children in need of some extra motivation.

Fortunately, the answer might have arrived in form of new research from Stanford University, which found that making vegetables sound exciting made more people likely to eat them.

The experiment labelled vegetables in four different styles.

  1. Basic: “carrots”
  2. Healthy restrictive: “carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing”
  3. Healthy positive: “smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots”
  4. Indulgent: “twisted citrus-glazed carrots”

The vegetables on offer rotated throughout the week, as did the “indulgent” tags which included “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots”, ”dynamite chilli and tangy lime-seasoned beets” and “twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges”.

How you twist a squash wedge remains unclear, but the sexy names worked. Indulgent names caused in 25% more people to select the veg compared with the basic name, 41% more people than the healthy restrictive label and 35% more people than the healthy positive name.

The names didn’t just increase how often people chose the vegetables, they also boosted how much they served themselves, even though the food behind the name was identical. People consumed 16% more of the indulgent veg compared with healthy positive, 23% more than basic and 33% more than healthy restrictive.

The team behind the study said that most people are motivated by taste when picking their food, which seems fair enough, and that healthy choices have become associated with being less tasty.

That’s clearly an issue, so hopefully all it will take to see lots more people getting their five-a-day is a widespread vegetable rebrand. That or slapping a load of seasoning on your veg, because that seems to be what they do at Stanford and it sounds pretty tasty to us.

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