We know we don’t eat nearly enough fruits and veggies.  And we know we ignore public official advice (threats might be more like it) to eat more of them.

But parents I talk to say they’re BORING.

New research supports the idea that fruits and vegetables can bore us.  Not because of the way they taste, but because when we think about eating fruits and vegetables, we only ever consider a small group of contenders. 

What’s the big deal?

  • It’s unlikely that people will ever decide they want to eat, say, leafy greens, if they never think about them.
  • Admonitions to eat more fruits and vegetables fall on deaf ears because it makes people think about increasing their consumption of the same-old, same-old.  As my daughter would say, that’s “b-o-o-o-o-o-r-i-n-g.”  We need more variety.

If you were asked to list 3 fruits and vegetables, what would you include?

If you are like most people you would say: apples, carrots, bananas, and oranges.  (That’s what the researchers found when they asked almost 1000 people this question.)

If you’re adventurous, you might think of strawberries or broccoli and if you’re really adventurous you might even consider tomatoes or corn.

But what about cauliflower, asparagus and kale? Forget about them.

Only 13 different fruits and vegetables were mentioned by 95% of the studied group. Here they are (in order of frequency):

  1. apple
  2. carrot
  3. banana
  4. orange
  5. strawberry
  6. broccoli
  7. lettuce
  8. grapes
  9. corn
  10. pineapple
  11. tomato
  12. watermelon
  13. green beans

Our kids probably have an even smaller list.

Now, I hear your objection: if people are only given a chance to write down 3 fruits and vegetables, how diverse can the list be?

Well, consumer behavior research has established that people only consider their top thoughts when making choices.

Sure, you could list a whole lot more fruits and vegetables, but that tests your memory.   It’s the foods you think about most readily that shape your behavior.  It’s all about habits.

The challenge to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables begins by expanding the foods they think about.

There are 56 different items in the vegetable category of the food pyramid.  Print out the list and introduce your kids to them all.  Make a game of it by turning your kids into food critics.  Let them rate and rank their preferences.

See Food Pyramid vegetable list.

The more veggies your kids quickly recall, the more of them they’ll eat.

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~



Brown-Kramer, C. R., M. T. Kiviniemi, and J. A. Winseman. 2009. “Food Exemplar Salience. What Foods Do People Think of When You Tell Them to Change Their Diet?” Appetite 52: 753-56.