Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans—people may not think they’re so icky after all.

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Sponsored by Birds Eye, researchers at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab set out to explore how some of our least favorite foods (vegetables!) impact our perception of the meal and the person who prepared it.

As part of the study, they conducted a national survey with 500 moms who had two or more children under the age of 18. A variety of meals were shown with and without vegetables. Participants were then asked to rate those meals and the cook on a scale of 1 to 9 and to describe both from a list of attributes.What they found was surprising: Vegetables don’t always have people turning up their noses.Ratings given to meals (steak, chicken, pasta, etc.) without a vegetable averaged 7.0. But toss some broccoli, zucchini or green beans onto the plate and all of a sudden that same dish scored an 8.1. Participants were also more likely to grade the meal as “loving” when some green stalks or crunchy crops were present.

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The produce did more than improve the perception of the meal, though. Adding vegetables to a dish boosted the perception of the chef as well. Tossing some greens (or yellows, reds or oranges) on the plate earned the cook higher accolades, and the cooks were more likely to be rated as “thoughtful,” “attentive” and “capable.”Surprised? We were too.

Why Vegetables Rule:
Lead researcher and author of “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Home, School, Grocery Stores, Restaurants and More,” Brian Wansink Ph.D., told us why vegetables help to make a meal more attractive all around.“Part of it is psychological,” he says. “It goes back to the association we have with larger meals, such as a holiday meal or a Sunday meal. They tend to be more deliberate or intentional, and that’s what this is invoking. We are used to seeing good meals with vegetables.”

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Produce is also a palate cleanser and gives us a break from endless bites of the entree, which add to their appeal.And even though this study was conducted with adults, Wansink surmised that the perception about our now-beloved vegetables can translate to kids. “The basic idea is that if the parents have these higher associations, then kids will, too,” he says.What’s most important in all of this is that those servings of vegetables get on the table in the first place, adds Wansink. “We found that 70 percent of the vegetables people eat are at dinnertime, but only 23 percent of dinners include a vegetable,” he notes.

At least now we know we can up that percentage without resorting to sneaky hide-the-spinach-in-the-soup tactics. And hey, we’ll come out looking like a hero, too. Bring on the kale!

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