Debra A. Zellner, professor in the Department of Psychology, and alumna Jennifer L. Cobuzzi ’08, have published a new study in Food Quality and Preference titled “Eat your veggies: A chef-prepared, family style school lunch increases vegetable liking and consumption in elementary school students.”
The study examined vegetable consumption and “liking” during school lunch for 3rd and 4th grade students at two urban schools in Philadelphia. It looked specifically at two vegetables: cauliflower and baked sweet potato “fries.” One school served the vegetables in traditional fashion, while the other served chef-prepared, family-style meals as part of the Eatiquette Program.
The chef-prepared lunch program resulted in greater consumption of the target vegetables over the course of the school year, the study found. The students also gave cauliflower a significantly higher “hedonic rating” at the end of the year, meaning they liked it more in what the study calls the “exposure effect” at work.
Past and future research
Zellner and Cobuzzi recently published another study on school lunch that focused on the increase in vegetable consumption when it was served in courses, rather than all at once alongside tastier foods like fruit.
Zellner will continue research looking at factors that can increase students’ consumption of vegetables through a grant to the Monell Chemical Senses Center from the Preston and Hilda Davis Foundation.
Increasing vegetable consumption is of interest to researchers because it has an impact on health. The study notes that it can help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease and it might help to prevent obesity. In the United States, many students eat two meals a day at school, getting about one-third of their calories there, so improving vegetable consumption at school could have a long-term effect on the health of students.
More recent coverage of Zellner’s work
The Boston Globe: How sounds can make your food taste different
Huffington Post: The Psychological Reason Why We Hate Ugly Fruits
The New York Times: The Psychology of Genre
The Atlantic: Starbucks and Food Customization in the United States
Bloomberg View: The Science Behind a Chocolate Funk
Scientific American Video: Do Appetizers Whet or Ruin Your Appetite?