Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Fruits and vegetables

How vegetables make the meal: their hedonic and heroic impact on perceptions of the meal and of the preparer

Brian Wansinka1, Mitsuru Shimizua1 and Adam Brumberga1 c1

a1 Warren Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-7801, USA


Objective Although most parents know that vegetables are healthful, vegetables are served at only 23 % of American dinners. If added nutrition is not a sufficient motivation, might a parent be more inspired to serve vegetables if doing so improved either the taste of the entrée or how loving and thoughtful the server would be perceived? The present paper details two studies which investigated whether serving vegetables changes the perception of the cook and the perception of an entrée's taste.

Design In Study 1, people evaluated the personality of a cook who either did or did not include a vegetable in a family dinner. In Study 2, five different meals that either included or did not include a vegetable were rated in terms of the taste of the entrée and of the whole meal.

Setting US-based online survey.

Subjects American mothers (n 500), ranging in age from 18 to 65 years (mean age 38·4 years), with at least two children under the age of 18 years living at home.

Results Serving vegetables improved taste expectations for the entrée as well as for the whole meal. Additionally, serving a vegetable with a meal also enhanced perceptions of the meal preparer. They were evaluated as being more thoughtful and attentive as well as less lazy, boring and self-absorbed.

Conclusions These two studies show new hedonic and heroic motivations for serving vegetables: (i) they increase the hedonic appeal of the meal and (ii) they increase the heroic appeal of the cook. More vegetables are likely to be served with a meal if preparers know that the addition of vegetables makes them appear to be both a better cook and a better person.

(Received January 28 2012)

(Revised September 18 2012)

(Accepted September 21 2012)

(Online publication November 15 2012)


  • Vegetables;
  • Perceptions of meal preparers;
  • Meal enhancement


c1 Corresponding author: Email