Tricks to Get Adults to Eat Healthier

Tricks to Get Adults to Eat Healthier
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Changing food perceptions and incorporating puréed vegetables into entrees can improve the dietary quality of kids and grown-ups.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We saw that just changing the name of healthy foods can have a significant impact on children’s eating habits. Are adults as gullible? Yes. For example, people actually report “Traditional Cajun Red beans [and] Rice” tastes better than just “Red Beans [and] Rice” even though they were both the exact same dish!

It’s funny; back in World War II, much of domestic meat was shipped overseas, just leaving lots of organs behind: the “hearts, kidneys, brains, stomachs, intestines, and even the feet, ears, and heads of cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens.” The challenge was how were they going to convince people, encourage people, to eat chicken heads?

To accomplish this, the Department of Defense enlisted dozens of the brightest, most famous psychologists to determine how dietary change could be accomplished. Apparently, taste wasn’t the problem. People would eat brains as long as you didn’t tell them they were eating brains. So, their solution was to invent mystery meat. Just don’t tell consumers what they’re eating. And, the same can apply with healthier foods.

“As with organ meats in the 1940s, the suggestion that a food contains soy may be so powerful that some people convince themselves [that] they do not like the taste.” For instance, if you give someone an energy bar that says it has soy protein in it, people rate it “as grainy and tasteless, compared to identical bars with no mention of the word ‘soy.’…In reality, there was no soy in either of the bars.” It’s what you call a “Phantom Ingredient taste test. Simply the suggested presence of soy made people believe they tasted it, and they evaluated it accordingly.” In general, “a large percentage of consumers taste what they want to taste.”

So, can you use the same vegetable sneak attack tactic, so successful in children?Covertly adding hidden puréed vegetables to meals works for adults, too—and even for vegetables they didn’t like. “It was shown that the adults’ dislike of the vegetables that were incorporated into the entrées did not affect the consumption of the vegetable-enhanced entrées.” Who couldn’t use a little vegetable enhancement?

“This indicates that the incorporation of puréed vegetables into entrées increased the intake of vegetables even when the added vegetable was disliked.” The big babies. And of course, the more vegetables you eat, the less calories you get, so you get a twin benefit, right? They were eating up to a pound of vegetables a day, and 350 fewer calories. More food, less calories. Keep that up; you could lose 30 pounds a year without even trying.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to celeste343 via flickr and Nomadic Lass. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

We saw that just changing the name of healthy foods can have a significant impact on children’s eating habits. Are adults as gullible? Yes. For example, people actually report “Traditional Cajun Red beans [and] Rice” tastes better than just “Red Beans [and] Rice” even though they were both the exact same dish!

It’s funny; back in World War II, much of domestic meat was shipped overseas, just leaving lots of organs behind: the “hearts, kidneys, brains, stomachs, intestines, and even the feet, ears, and heads of cows, hogs, sheep, and chickens.” The challenge was how were they going to convince people, encourage people, to eat chicken heads?

To accomplish this, the Department of Defense enlisted dozens of the brightest, most famous psychologists to determine how dietary change could be accomplished. Apparently, taste wasn’t the problem. People would eat brains as long as you didn’t tell them they were eating brains. So, their solution was to invent mystery meat. Just don’t tell consumers what they’re eating. And, the same can apply with healthier foods.

“As with organ meats in the 1940s, the suggestion that a food contains soy may be so powerful that some people convince themselves [that] they do not like the taste.” For instance, if you give someone an energy bar that says it has soy protein in it, people rate it “as grainy and tasteless, compared to identical bars with no mention of the word ‘soy.’…In reality, there was no soy in either of the bars.” It’s what you call a “Phantom Ingredient taste test. Simply the suggested presence of soy made people believe they tasted it, and they evaluated it accordingly.” In general, “a large percentage of consumers taste what they want to taste.”

So, can you use the same vegetable sneak attack tactic, so successful in children?Covertly adding hidden puréed vegetables to meals works for adults, too—and even for vegetables they didn’t like. “It was shown that the adults’ dislike of the vegetables that were incorporated into the entrées did not affect the consumption of the vegetable-enhanced entrées.” Who couldn’t use a little vegetable enhancement?

“This indicates that the incorporation of puréed vegetables into entrées increased the intake of vegetables even when the added vegetable was disliked.” The big babies. And of course, the more vegetables you eat, the less calories you get, so you get a twin benefit, right? They were eating up to a pound of vegetables a day, and 350 fewer calories. More food, less calories. Keep that up; you could lose 30 pounds a year without even trying.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to celeste343 via flickr and Nomadic Lass. Thanks to Ellen Reid and Shane Barrett for their Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

How healthy are those beans and rice—regardless of what you call them? Check out Beans & the Second Meal Effect.

What’s wrong with eating brains? See Avoiding Cholesterol is a No-Brainer, and Foodborne Rabies.

Does soy deserve its bad rap? No; see Breast Cancer Survival & Soy. They may be overrated in the cholesterol-lowering department, though; see Soy Worth a Hill of Beans?

Another way to entice men and women to eat healthier is to appeal to their concerns about sexual function (see 50 Shades of Greens) or vanity:

  1. Golden Glow
  2. Preventing Wrinkles with Diet
  3. Beauty Is More than Skin Deep
  4. Can Cellulite be Treated with Diet?

This is the last video of a three-part series on practical tips for dietary improvement—after addressing Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at School, and Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at Home. But how can we overcome our built-in hunger drives for salt, sugar, and fat? That’s the subject of my next video: Changing our Taste Buds. And then, another vanity appeal in Eating Better to Look Better.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: How to Get Kids to Eat their Vegetables, How to Get our Kids to Eat their Vegetables, and How to Get Parents to Eat their Vegetables.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

36 responses to “Tricks to Get Adults to Eat Healthier

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  1. What do you think of sneaking into meals good veggies like cabbage through sauerkraut? Would this fall under the no-no by you (kimchi bad)?

    Also, how about sourdough bread? Is this sort of fermentation similar to kimchi, with similar negative consequences to health?

    Olives that have been soaked in brine (just about all have) concern me as well. Any similarities with the kimchi process of making?

    These seem like all good foods raw or cooked, but the whole fermentation, brining, sourdough culturing things worries me because of the kimchi studies.

    1. Jed: I’m not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggesting that people would eat more veggies if it came in the form of sauerkraut? I can’t imagine Dr. Greger or any of the good doctors on this forum recommending sourdough since it is usually made with refined grains. So, it’s not something you would want to sneakily get more into adults.

      You don’t have to respond. I just thought I would let you know that your point or question may not be clear.

      FYI: I do know the kimchi studies you are talking about. Those were very interesting.

      1. Is sauerkraut as bad as kimchi, according to Dr. Greger’s thinking – kimchi videos? I assume they are one and the same. I’m a bit confused on this. sauerkraut is easy to sneak into foods, but if it is bad like kimchi, I should stop.

        Sourdough can be made with whole grains. I just assumed that the culturing, fermentation,bringing process were interrelated and therefore was wondering if there were shared negative traits amongst kimchi, sourdough fermentation, and brining/salting of olives.

        1. Ah. I think I understand your question better and share it myself to some degree. Dr. Greger has at least one video showing fermented foods having negative impacts, but I believe there is at least one other video (which I can’t find right now) which looked at different types of fermented (pro or pre-biotic?) foods which had a positive impact. So, what’s up with that?

          I’m not an expert. I hope someone who is will answer your question. But for what it’s worth, here’s my take: The term ‘fermentation’ seems to cover a wide range of end products and bacteria mixes. Some of that bacteria would be good for us and some bad and in some cases, a mix since the final product would not be controlled. Thus, without much more research, it would be hard to make blanket statements to answer your question.

          1. Olives, sauerkraut go through the curing, pickling, lye, brining processes, and they come out tasting wonderful but others elsewhere have expressed concern.

            I do wonder if Dr. Greger has ever flat out said “don’t eat sauerkraut. Don’t eat olives.”

      1. So maybe high salt-sodium intake is what is causing the problems with kimchi. At least this is what I took from your latter citation. I do wonder if significantly reducing the sodium content in the kimchi would negate the negative effects of N-nitro compounds. Darryl, thank you for your insight and knowledge.

        And to all vegans here: Seriously vegans of this community, does the science available really suggest that even small and occasional servings of kimchi and sauerkraut can be harmful, if one is following a diet that has a healthy sodium intake?

        Does Dr. Greger’s available science really suggest that a weekly serving of kimchi could be raising someone’s cancer risk to a degree that is worrisome? And isn’t this -kimchi and sauerkraut- a crafty and tasty way to sneak in some vegetables? They taste delightful!

        1. From the first paper, the odds ratio for those consuming more than 1½ lbs of kimchi a week of having gastric cancer was 1.57 compared those eating less than 1½ lbs, ie a 57% higher risk. That’s significant, but the delineation at 1½ lbs also represents a huge amount of kimchi for a westerner (a half-cup serving every weekday).

          1. Yes, 57% greater risk seems significant. Could you explain in numbers how this equates to odds, meaning, if 10,000 people ate Kimchi at 1 1/2 lbs. per week, how many would be expected to get the cancer as a result? If the second group ate no kim chi, how many of them would be expected to get gastric cancer? I’ve often had a difficult time understanding the math of these figures.

            1. No, the study estimated that if you split the entire S. Korean population into just two kinds of people, the half that ate less than about1½ lbs of kimchi weekly, and the half that ate more, the “high” consuming half woulld have 1.57 times the gastric cancer incidence of the “low” consuming half.
              Ie,low could mean zero, occasional, or a ½ serving every other night. high could mean every night, or binging on jars. The study wasn’t large enough to achieve significance using more statistical bins represesenting different intakes.

  2. Actually this is sad. Regarding adults arguments should be enough. Do you want to get sick and die early, then eat meat, eggs, fish, dairy and processed oils. Do you want to stay healthy then eat beans, grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts (98% of the time). How hard can it be…..

  3. My personal trick to start eating healthier was to buy a Vitamix to blend all these healthy greens together and cover up any potential funny taste with a scoop of vanilla protein powder. Voilà, a healthy smoothie that tastes awesome :)

    1. Daniel: Great idea to share your tricks. I hope lots of people will jump in with ideas on what got them to start eating healthier.

      Here’s how I did it: I didn’t (don’t) like veggies that much in general, but I realized that there were some I tolerated much better than others. Don’t like kale? Fine! Eat the broccoli you do like. Don’t like big tomatoes? Fine! Eat the cherry ones. Don’t like eggplant? Or zucchini? Fine! Eat the yellow, red and orange bell peppers that you do like. … While there were far more veggies that I didn’t like than did like, I could focus on the ones that I did like. And then slowly work on expanding my pallet. This worked pretty well.

      Another “trick” that worked for me was to fill a bag each morning before work filled will 2-3 raw fruits and veggies. I never skimped due to cost. I filled it with things I like: Fuji apples, a pound of strawberries, blueberries, 2-3 bell peppers, a bag of sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, etc. And all things that didn’t need prep (which is a key factor for me). Then first thing at work, I put the food in an array on the desk in front of me. (Between the keyboard and monitor) I naturally reach for these foods all day long. I’ve been doing this for probably 10 years now. Prior to this practice, I probably ate a single serving of fruit or veggie once or twice a month. My diet was *terrible.* Now, I’m eating fruits and veggies all day long at least 5 times a week. Over time, my preferences for what I like has changed. But my rule is still to eat what I like, while trying to keep an eye on nutrition density, so that I look forward to each day’s set of snacks.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

        1. Darryl: re: “and after cooking disasters”
          I laughed a that. Been there, done that!

          Your tricks would make me cry. But if you put aside the painful part of your answer ;-), I think this is a fabulous trick. I’ve used it myself. If you can find a sauce or two or three that you absolutely love, you can put it on almost any combo of veggies, grains, beans, and mushrooms and have a wonderful meal that makes your tongue happy. Good trick.

  4. Thank you. I have ice cubes of pureed kale and butternut squash in my freezer and I pop them in whatever I’m making for my family (works well in pasta, sauces, even oatmeal). It’s time to start renaming the veggies too.

  5. Try this stew pureed for a delicious, thick and rich bowl.

    Heartfall Harvest Stew

    – 1 cup dried lentils
    – 5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
    – 1 carrot, cut in rounds
    – 3 organic* apples, diced
    – 3 scallions, sliced
    – 1 large red onion, chopped
    – 3 cloves garlic, minced
    – 5 cups water/homemade vegetable broth
    – Sprig fresh rosemary
    – ¼ tsp white pepper
    – Sea salt

    Place all ingredients, except salt, in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until lentils and potatoes soft, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

    *Apples rank 1st (most contaminated) for yet another year in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so choose organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  6. Dr. Greger, I was hoping this video had more to do with organ meats, which are touted so highly in some doctor’s diets. I would like to be completely vegan, but these doctors insist that eating organ meats is required for better health — particularly brain health. These same doctors also promote the eating of oils — like coconut oil — which I have been persuade is bad by Dr. McDougall and Dr. Esselstyn.

    Hope you will touch on these subjects later!

  7. I was raising my children (and myself) wrong. We have changed our diets as a family after my gallbladder started acting up and I found Dr. Greger’s life-changing site a few weeks ago. I feel so good after making these changes. My biggest concern is my youngest daughter. My youngest “will not” eat whole grains (yet) other than wheat
    bread from a local bakery. She has reduced her intake of 2% cows milk to 1 cup per
    day (down from 3). I am planning to wean her completely off of it over the next few months. She is a VERY picky eater who nursed until she was 3 years
    old, and wouldn’t eat “baby” foods at all. She didn’t start eating solid food until she was over a year old. She does enjoy some fruits, like apples, pineapples, blueberries & watermellon, and a few vegetables, like broccoli, cucumbers, carrots and peas. She hates beans and most nuts but will eat pistachios. She will only eat white rice & pasta, though she enjoys whole wheat bread with smart balance, honey or strawberry jam. She does not like peanut butter. The healthiest cereal I can get her to eat is raisin bran. She has never liked meat, so she has been eating morningstar farms brand “sausage” patties and corn dogs (heavily processed I know) for several years. She also likes fresh tortillas and low fat Mexican blend cheese, and she likes fried egg whites. She will NOT eat soup or any sauces, so I can’t sneak veggies in that way. She is almost 10 years old. Other than salt (which she seems to enjoy more than anyone else), the only spices she enjoys are cinnamon on dried apples or garlic on bread. Both of those “tastes” have developed over the last year…so there is hope. It is just so frustrating. I want to reduce her dairy and egg intake, but she already eats so few foods, that I worry if I am doing the right thing. She does love candy, which we let her have a few pieces every Friday, “Candy Friday”, we call it. I would appreciate recommendations, especially from others with “picky” kids, as to what I can do to get her to eat a greater variety of healthy foods. In general, she will not eat food that is mixed up. Each part needs to be recognizable and not touching, she likes bananas and blueberries for example, but won’t drink a fruit smoothie made of just the two.

    1. Jennifer: In reading your description, I understand why you are concerned. I hope someone will jump in who has deal with a similar situation.
      .
      In the meantime, I wanted to refer you the kids page on the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) website. VRG is a well respected, well researched site. Their recommendations are generally consistent with what you will find here. I think what VRG has that is so helpful is their information about kids. I’ve gone through some of this material, but not all of it. I don’t know if it addresses cases like your daughters or not, but maybe it will have some ideas for you.
      http://www.vrg.org/family/kidsindex.htm
      .
      My guess is that it is just going to take a lot of patience and constant exposure to new tastes and tastes you want her develop. That early exposure is key and it’s really not too late for your daughter. Good luck!

      1. Thank you Thea! I will check out that site. I need so much help with her. I have been pushing variety with her and asking her to count how many vegetables and fruit she has had every day before she asks for a treat like pretzels or rice cakes. She has to get to 5 different ones before she can have empty calories. Our new rule. And it is working! I had one major success this week. I haven’t been buying ice cream, and she is sorely missing her double fudge brownie. After I couldn’t find anything acceptable in store, she asked if I could make popsicles. I made pineapple mango last week and she devoured them. This week I made pineapple, banana & blueberry. I decided the flavors were so strong and the color so purple from the berry that I could sneak in fresh spinach, cauliflower and carrots. She loved it! She found one little leaf in her third popsicles. Huh. Maybe a tiny blueberry leaf from the the factory where they freeze and bag the berries? Sounded reasonable to her. Victory was mine! And hers.

        1. Jennifer: I got such a kick out of reading your post. Way to bring out the creative solutions! I’m rooting for you both.
          .
          Thanks for the fun post. Made me smile.

        2. I just thought of one more idea for you. You probably already thought of this, but just in case: You mentioned that chocolate ice cream is a special treat. Have you heard of grinding up frozen bananas in a powerful blender? In one of the videos somewhere (I think), Dr. Greger talks about grinding up frozen bananas, cocoa powder, dates (date paste) and maybe some berries. The result is a chocolate soft-serve that is really pretty healthy. It doesn’t include the greens/veggies, but it would be a big step up from a commercial chocolate vice cream. Everything in it would be healthy. It might give some variety to the popsicles.

          1. My oldest daughter and I eat frozen banana smoothies frequently. The youngest may or may not like it. But maybe as her palate changes she will come to like it. Normally she snubs muffins made with bananas. In this case I would think the cocoa would overpower the banana, though, especially if I use barely ripe bananas. If I can get her to eat that, I might be able to mix in bits of black bean brownies. I have been looking at this recipe: http://minimalistbaker.com/vegan-gluten-free-black-bean-brownies/ . I have an ice cream attachment for my kitchenaid that I rarely use that might be useful for this project. Thank you for the suggestion! I think I remember Dr. Greger mentioning it in one of his videos or his book, but I had forgotten. :)

          2. I wanted to thank you for sharing the banana ice cream recipe. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. My husband, oldest daughter and I LOVE it. We have it two weekends in a row now, and I am planning to make it this weekend. Such a delicious treat! My youngest didn’t like it. I had success last night with brown rice, though. We usually have to bribe her with tv time or something to get her to eat something like Quinoa. But she actually asked for seconds of her brown rice! I hadn’t tried it with her for a couple of years.

            1. Jennifer: I’m *SO* happy to hear you are making progress with the little one. You can’t do better than to hook a kid on brown rice I think. That’s amazing. It sounds like it is going to be a game of persistent patience and retrying and retrying and retrying.
              .
              I was also very tickled to hear you like the banana ice cream. Such a simple thing that makes so many people happy. I’m so grateful for freezers and professional blenders!

              1. Thank you! I made this Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Rice recipe with some alterations (no butter, Trader Joe’s almond Mozzarella, cashew milk, mushrooms, roasted garlic). I made a bunch of the cauliflower sauce and froze it, so dinner was as simple of cooking the brown rice, and mixing the sauce, mozzarella and garlic into the rice. The Trader Joe’s almond mozzarella has some milk in it, but I didn’t even use a quarter cup. I served this with Balsamic glazed asparagus. It was comfort food paradise. It is hard to believe the bulk of the sauce is cauliflower. Next I am going to use the cauliflower sauce to make artichoke and roasted garlic whole wheat pizza. The youngest will likes garlic pizza, so I am hoping she will accept the whole wheat, cauliflower, almond cheese pizza.
                http://pinchofyum.com/creamy-cauliflower-garlic-rice

                1. Oh, look like two different people, but both are me! :) Must be logged in differently using disqus. This is the pizza recipe I am looking at: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/04/23/spinach-artichoke-white-cheese-pizza/
                  My plan is to make whole wheat crust (whole wheat/buckwheat mix) and the replace about half the called for mozzarella with the cauliflower sauce and the other half with the almond mozzarella. For my youngest, I will just do that. But my husband, oldest and I can enjoy the artichokes and spinach, and the youngest can have some green veggies on the side. A good alternate would be fresh basil and tomatoes in the summer. Is there a place where members here go to share their recipes?

                  1. :-) Funny. I did think it was a different person!
                    .
                    That pizza does look delicious. Now I’m craving pizza… Not sure if this kind of thing would interest you or not, but I’ve got two vegan pizza books. The healthier book is more creative, but probably more ‘out there’ for people who love traditional pizza. There are many ‘cheese’ layer options that you can make with your blender. I was really impressed with the creativity. http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Healthy-Pizza-Mark-Sutton/dp/1469981386/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454773939&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+healthy+pizza The other book I got more recently and is authored by someone who wrote one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Casseroles. The pizza book (which I don’t like as much, but I think others will like it) is: http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Pizza-Cheesy-Healthy-Recipes/dp/144942712X/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454774107&sr=1-1&keywords=vegan+pizza+julie+hasson
                    .
                    Just sharing. :-)

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