Eating with Your Eyes

Colony House restaurant

If you were driving by this restaurant, would you be curious about the food? Would the twinkling lights glowing through the window and the charm of the old house facade make you wonder what’s on the menu? That’s what it did to me years ago, and now I’m a regular customer. This is a restaurant about 10 minutes from my home. My husband and I were drawn in by the charm and our curiosity. Why? Because we often eat with our eyes.

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

Why do you think that food bloggers, food magazines and recipe websites offer up attractive photographs of the dishes they offer? Because that’s what entices people into trying their recipes. Caramel dribbling down the side of a slice of moist chocolate cake or big chunks of colorful cherries inside a piece of fresh coffee cake. Chocolate drizzled across the top of a miniature cheesecake. You eat with your eyes.

Restaurants do it too. Chefs know that a dish that looks delicious will make your taste buds tingle. They know that if they present food in a pleasing manner, you are much more likely to order it. The group at Unilever Food Solutions conducted studies that have shown that certain keywords can make food more enticing. When chefs and restaurants use words such as “succulent” or “savory” and “creamy” to enhance the title of a recipe, it makes it more appealing. You’ve probably seen me do that on this blog as well!

Dr. Brian Wansink, the John Dyson Professor of Consumer Behavior at Cornell University and author of [amazon_link id=”0345526880″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mindless Eating[/amazon_link] says that we as consumers can use this same concept in our everyday lives to help our families eat a little healthier too. He calls it “seductive nutrition”. Dr. Wansink says that if we present healthier foods in a pleasing manner, your families are more inclined to eat it. All it takes is a few simple changes to make it both nutritious and delicious.


When I was a little girl I didn’t want to eat my broccoli. My mom used seductive nutrition by calling my broccoli “trees” and my mashed potatoes “volcanoes”. The gravy was the lava and I was the giant of all the land. A sprinkle of salt was either rain or snow and pepper was the volcano’s ash. By making my food fun my mother was able to get me to eat my broccoli because I was enjoying the story. It was pleasing, appealing.

Do you use this type of concept with your family?

Here’s another example, a bit more visual…

Ernie and Bert Fruit Snacks

Jill from Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons has an entire blog dedicated to this concept. These Ernie and Bert fruit snacks are an excellent example of this! Jill encourages her children to eat their fruit by making their food entertaining.

How do you encourage your family to eat a little healthier?

When you go to a restaurant, flip through a food magazine or see a commercial on television, do you see or hear words like “fresh”, “sizzling”, “whipped” or “silky smooth”? These descriptive words are used by the food industry to entice you into trying whatever it is that they are selling, and it works!

Southwest Ground Beef Casserole

Studies have shown that there are three ways that food is “seductively” named. Geographic (Southwestern Tex-Mex Salad; homegrown Iowa Pork Chops; “Real” Carolina Barbeque Sauce; or Country Peach Tart), nostalgic (Old-World Italian Manicotti; Grandma’s Best Banana Cream Pie; or Green Gables Matzo Ball Soup) and sensory (Velvet Chocolate Mousse; Silky-Smooth Pumpkin Pie; Warm Apple Crisp; Hearty, Sizzling Steaks; Snappy-fresh Seasonal Carrots; or Garlic butter-infused Chicken Kiev). I have Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake and the very popular Southwest Ground Beef Casserole, both examples of geographic labeling.

ANOTHER DELICIOUS IDEA >>  Garlic Bread Crusted Classic Pizza

1963 Homemade White Bread

This 1963 Homemade White Bread is a perfect example of nostalgic labeling. Take the “1963” off and it’s just another white bread recipe! The fact that the title indicates that this recipe has stood the test of time sets off something in a person’s brain. Some may look at the recipe and think “oh, maybe it’s like my grandma’s!” and try it just for that reason. Nostalgia.

I’ll admit, I’d much rather try something called “French Silk Pie” over just plain old “chocolate pie” any day! How about Savory Chicken with Onion Thyme Sauce? Surely you’ll agree that title is better than “chicken with onion sauce”? These are examples of sensory labeling.

So next time you are at a restaurant watch for these labels, see how your favorite eating establishments are putting this concept into place. Pay close attention to vegetable dishes and lean meats. Are they making small changes in favor of helping you eat better?

Think about how you can use seductive nutrition to help your family eat a little better. After all, this concept is not just for restaurants and the food industry, it can help us all in our own kitchens as well!

I received compensation for this post as part of a sponsored opportunity from the Mom It Forward blogger network for Unilever Food Solutions. All ideas, images (unless otherwise credited), and opinions are my own.


  1. Carole says


    I was just wondering if this is the same Colony House that is near Antioch, Illinois?

    I love your blog!! Happy Holidays!

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