Gregory J. Privitera and Heather E. Creary, both of St. Bonaventure University, in Olean, tested a total of 96 college students by placing apple slices and carrot cuts in either clear or opaque bowls at a table close to the participants or at a table 2 meters away.
Participants watched as the food was taken out of its packaging and were told they were welcome to eat the snacks.
After leaving the students alone with the food for 10 minutes, the researchers found when apples and carrots were left close to the participants, those healthy foods were more likely to be eaten.
Interestingly, making the food more visible to participants by placing them in clear bowls increased the intake of the apples but not the carrots, the researchers said.
The researchers explained this might be due to the fact that fruit is sweeter and may induce more motivation to eat than bitter-tasting vegetables.
"Apples, but not carrots, have sugar, which is known to stimulate brain reward regions that induce a 'wanting' for foods that contain sugar," the study authors wrote. "Hence, apple slices may be more visually appealing than carrots."
The findings were published in the Environment and Behavior.