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.