6 Jedi Mind Tricks That Convince People To Eat Healthy

by | Oct 23, 2013

Photo by pasukaru76

The Jedi are famous for many things: lightsabers, telekinesis, making out with their sisters, and of course, mind tricks. Using the power of The Force, Jedi can exert seemingly magical control over the minds of people around them, getting unwitting participants to cooperate in anything the Jedi wants.

Fortunately, this skill is not restricted to the order of Jedi Knights. Even normal humans with average levels of midi-chlorians in our blood can harness this power of persuasion. The secret is understanding that most of the feelings people have about things are highly subjective, and vary depending on context.

This is especially true of food.

The environment food is served in, its presentation, the attitudes of others and the words used to describe the dish have a bigger impact on how food is perceived than its actual taste. (Check out Brian Wansink’s book, Marketing Nutrition, if you want to geek out on this stuff.) Since we can control many of these factors, we can greatly influence how someone feels about the food we serve.

Food that is perceived as healthy is the most likely to be rejected by stubborn eaters. Whether you have a picky teenager at your table every night, or just want to bring a healthy dish to a holiday party, here are some tricks you can use to prevent the food from being rejected out of hand.

6 Jedi Mind Tricks That Convince People To Eat Healthy

1. Don’t tell them it’s healthy

People generally assume healthy ingredients make a food taste worse. Avoid this by not mentioning the healthfulness of the dish or any of its ingredients. Simply swipe your hand slowly in front of their faces and tell them this isn’t the healthy food they’re looking for. This food is delicious.

2. Don’t tell them it’s vegetarian (or vegan)

On a similar note never announce that a food is vegetarian or vegan, unless you happen to be feeding a crowd of vegetarians or vegans. Last 4th of July I attended a potluck, knowing there would be no shortage of ribs, chips and beer. I love all these foods, but wanted to make sure there was at least something healthy there for me to eat. To fill the gap I brought a farro salad filled with vegetables, greens and herbs. It was easy to make, inexpensive, and delicious. Was it vegetarian? Yep. Vegan? Uh-huh. Did anyone know that? Nope (except the one vegan girl who asked). Everyone loved it.

3. Name it after something fattening

If you ask almost any kid on the street if they want some cauliflower, the answer will likely be no. If you ask them if they’d like some cauliflower french fries, you’ll probably get a different response. Works like magic.

4. Tell a story

If you’re serving a dish you think people should like (because it tastes amazing), but you’re afraid they will reject (because of something that’s in it) try reframing the dish as something special by telling a story. Conversion stories are particularly effective. Maybe this is the recipe your two pre-teens can’t get enough of, or the dish that finally convinced your dad that beets aren’t gross. Giving people a reason to doubt their first impression by using an example of the opposite can be very persuasive.

5. Change the subject

If someone asks you point blank what’s in a dish, and you’re pretty sure they won’t like the answer, you can get around it by changing the subject. “Oh, this is just something that my husband really loves to eat. It’s got rice and some herbs. Are the Lakers playing tonight?”

6. Eat with gusto

Few things are as enticing as hearing someone moan with pleasure after taking a bite of food. Because, yeah, it’s that good. People will often reevaluate their opinions if they think they’re missing out on something. So eat with gusto, and maybe they’ll want to eat what you’re having.

What are your favorite Jedi mind tricks?

Originally published November 28, 2012.

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24 Responses to “6 Jedi Mind Tricks That Convince People To Eat Healthy”

  1. AJ says:

    Great post, Darya!

  2. Maggie says:

    “Simply swipe your hand slowly in front of their faces and tell them this isn’t the healthy food they’re looking for.”

    So Derren Brown. :-)

  3. Love it! Goes to show that Star Wars references are good for any day of the week and any subject matter.
    You are so right about presenting healthy food in a not so healthy way.

  4. DEA says:

    Much of this makes sense to me (unfortunately), but I’d quibble with the “moan with pleasure” bit. There is little that turns me off more than hearing someone moan while eating, and based on the flinching around the table when we eat with one particular relative, I’d say I’m not alone. I’d rather watch someone blow their nose.

  5. Satyakant K says:

    Hello,

    I do think all these would work the way you describe them; they sound like advertising techniques that are used commercially for a lot of products, including food items. But I have a problem with the fact that most if not all of it essentially amounts to deception, lying (effectively), and providing incomplete information. At what point does one stop treating people like kids who must be cajoled into doing what is good for them as opposed to adults who can identify what is good for them, who realise that pleasure is not everything and some pain is inevitable, who can draw conclusions independently for new data as opposed to extrapolating from poorly correlated past experiences, who understand the concept of “unknown unknowns” ?

    Regards,

    Satya

  6. Yup, great tricks! I try to be really casual. Quinoa? Oh it’s just like rice. What’s this? Oh just some greens.

  7. Jessica says:

    Lol, I love this post! Cauliflower french fries is my favorite part!

    I absolutely love your site and what you are doing for health awareness. I have felt for a long time that food and nutrition are the keys to physical health. I’m frequently disgusted by the overabundance of unnecessary medications that are handed out in cocktails for ailments that could easily be cured by diet change. Likewise, I am very saddened by the way that poisonous processed foods are marketed to the uninformed consumer, particularly the children, who are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies.

    I’m so glad I found this site. Expect frequent visits :)

  8. So far I haven’t had any issues with getting people to try my healthy food. If they don’t want to eat it then it leaves more for me. Who can say no to sweet potato french fries and paleo chili?

  9. Alex says:

    Playing tricks with each other’s mind is intellectually dishonest. Supposing that people are stupid is even worse. The ends don’t justify the means.
    Will you lie to your kids rather than teach them a priori the benefits of healthy food? Seriously?

    • Darya Pino says:

      I disagree. It isn’t about lying, it’s about getting around pre-existing biases. It is often easier to sell the benefits of healthy eating after someone understands that the food actually tastes good. For half a century the food industry has been telling us that good tasting food has to be bad for you, and that healthy food almost always tastes bad. People aren’t stupid, but what we’ve been told is healthy–diet foods and flavorless industrial vegetables–often do taste bad. This has created many biases against vegetables and healthy food, and getting people to give health a chance can be incredibly difficult (I do this for a living).

      Understanding basic psychology and using it to frame foods in a more positive light may be crafty, but it isn’t deceptive. If it ultimately gets people to change their habits, it could save lives. That sounds like enough of a justification to me.

      • Emma says:

        Darya I love these ideas! I find that some ‘reframing’ of a client’s thoughts about healthier foods is pretty much always necessary to get them to give the foods another go. If they knew they liked healthier foods & how to prepare them, I wouldn’t necessarily need to be involved! It’s the job of a nutrition professional to sell health and make it easier to make good choices. Food company marketing messages are hard to ignore and not going away, so the nutrition profession needs to work extra hard to get our seemingly boring messages across (everyone already knows they should eat more veg, less processed meat, less refined grains…). If a few crafty mind tricks help us achieve this, then great!

  10. I’ll have to try these Jedi mind tricks when trying to get people to try my green juices! The amount of times people have turned up their noses when I’ve told them what’s in it LOL. But if you tell them it’s really good and they can’t have any… that’s a different story! :)

  11. maxie says:

    I’ve seen #6 work often. Many, many years ago, when I rarely saw lentils outside of my family’s homes, my sis brought her amazing lentil salad to a potluck and was sad to see no one venturing to try it. That is, until one brave person tasted it and started raving about it. That enticed others to try it and it disappeared quickly.

  12. fam,faith,n'freedom says:

    Love this post. So much of what we believe about our surroundings is the result of careful advertizing. I’ve been using these “tricks” on my kids all their lives. They happen to LOVE roasted brussels sprouts, quinoa, green monster smoothies, homemade whole wheat bread, sandwiches w/veggies in them, hummus, asparagus, broccoli, artichokes, the list could go on and on. When their friends say “ewww”, my kids are the ones to look at them funny and say “are you kidding, you haven’t tried….”. I don’t think it’s deceptive to say “this is so delicious, I know you won’t want some,” or, “yup. they’re ‘burgers’.” It’s just good advertizing.

  13. Sloan says:

    “May the Schwartz be with you” Sorry, wrong movie! I think you ladies are great with the “mind tricks”. My wife has had to use them on me to get me to eat more healthy food. Hummus, in my mind, was gross. My wife said, “It is just peas and you like peas.” It took a few times to melt my mental wall, but I tried it as a dip with pita and I honestly liked it a lot. Thanks for the tips. Now I know what to watch out for!

  14. Dave says:

    i make my kids eat healthy via “aggressive negotiations with a light sabre”.

  15. Great tips! Jedi mind tricks really are awesome if you want someone to do something they don’t want- like eat healthy stuff. And not telling them what’s in a dish does work well!

  16. Mich T says:

    Interesting post. I guess I’m not your “normal” eater. Anything that ISN’T healthy doesn’t sound appetizing to me!

  17. Elle says:

    I use 5 a lot with my kids…so true.

    What also works every time with my tween girl is to tell her it is a recipe by Jamie Oliver (I got her to eat a salad that contained plenty of cilantro today because it was from one of Jamie’s books!).

    Go Jamie!

  18. Mimi says:

    These tips sound very convincing. I really hope this works because my bf is a picky eater. He does not like to eat anything ‘healthy’ and eats a lot of junkfood instead. On #4 how do I make up a story??

    • Darya Rose says:

      The story should be a real one. For instance, I often tell people to try my cauliflower recipe because 7-year olds love it so much they ask for more. This is true of my niece, but it also convinces adults that it must be good if even a kid would like it.

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