Eat Your Vegetables

Pitching Nutrition: Dogma that Bites

From the Annals of Duh comes a new study in press to remind us that when we’re pitching nutrition, being dogmatic comes back to bite us. It seems that just giving children healthy food — without telling them how wonderful it is — increases the odds that they’ll actually eat it.

Two marketing professors, Michal Maimaran of Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishback of the University of Chicago, conducted a series of five experiments with preschoolers to see what messages were most persuasive for getting them to eat nutritious foods.

Working systematically through the questions, they found that telling kids that food will make them strong leads them to eat less of it. They figure it won’t taste as good. Likewise telling them that the food will help them learn to read or learn to count also undermined the cause of getting them to eat it. In fact, even telling them that the food is yummy had no affect. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help, either.

The best bet seems to be simply serving good food without all the nutrition dogma.

Maybe it’s only adults who can be duped by health claims on food.

Click here to read more in the New York Times and here to download the paper to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Eat Your Vegetables, photograph © MisterDavidC / flickr

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3 Responses to “Pitching Nutrition: Dogma that Bites”

  1. June 10, 2014 at 9:23 am, Bruce Daggy said:


    It sounds like they didn’t evaluate a prime marketing strategy: The Endorsement. Up until age 6 or so, my parents could get me to try anything that “railroad men eat”. Worked for Joe Camel too. And let’s not forget the Wheaties box.

    • June 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm, Ted said:

      I wonder who would provide the endorsement today with mass appeal?

  2. June 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm, Rose A. said:

    txs, Bruce! I think,its a sharp point! Endorsement is different from instrumentalisation, persuasion or pitch or whatever. Instrumentalisation is persuasion via argumentents (plausible or not). Endorsement is affirmation.
    I wonder why it should not work? Facebook is full of poeple hungry for endorsement – for another “like it” and another one…. Its the principle of FB!
    So it should work!