A team at Stanford tried it out on students in the university cafeteria and found veggie sales went up by 25% when indulgent labels were used.
"Sizzlin' beans", "dynamite beets" and "twisted citrus-glazed carrots" tempted diners to fill their plates.
Healthy labels, such as "wholesome", were a turn-off, even though the dishes were identical in every other way.
The experiment took place over the whole of the autumn academic term. Each day, a vegetable dish was labelled up in one of four ways:
- basic - where the description was simply "carrots", for example
- healthy restrictive - "carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing"
- health positive - "smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots"
- indulgent - "twisted citrus-glazed carrots"
The choice of vegetable - beetroot, butternut squash, carrot, corn, courgette, green beans, sweet potato - was also rotated to make sure there was enough variety throughout the week.
Each day, the scientists counted how many of the 600 or so diners selected the vegetable dish and, at the end of the meal time, weighed how much of the food had been taken from the serving bowl.
The indulgent labels came out top and included "twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges" and "dynamite chilli and tangy lime-seasoned beets".
Seductive names resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable compared with basic labelling, 41% more people than the healthy restrictive labelling and 35% more people than the healthy positive labelling.
The researchers, Brad Turnwald and colleagues, say the findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, make sense when you consider the psychology behind food choices.
When most people are making a dining decision, they are motivated by taste.
And studies show that people tend to think of healthier options as less tasty for some reason.
Labels really can influence our sensory experience, affecting how tasty and filling we think food will be.
The research shows that you can reframe how people view vegetables, just by using indulgent labels!