Healthier Lunches for Children
A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics shows that making small, low cost, but attractive changes in school cafeterias to promote healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables greatly influences children to choose and eat healthier foods.
The team of Andrew S. Hanks, PhD from B.E.N. Center, analyzed the effects of what they call the smarter lunchroom makeover in the cafeterias of two western New York junior-senior high schools.
The changes made in the lunchroom included putting fresh fruits in nice bowls or tiered stands and strategically placing these next to the cash registers. Verbal cues were used by the cafeteria staff to attract attention to the fruits and vegetables, like asking the students if they would like to try an apple.
The researchers measured the effect of the smarter lunchroom makeover by recording the leftovers on lunch trays before and after the changes made in the cafeteria. The results showed that more than 10% of the students were more likely to eat fruits and more than 20% were more likely to have vegetables. Consumption of vegetable increased by 25% and fruits by more than 15%. They also observed that likelihood of students eating a whole serving of fruits was more than 15% and 10% for vegetables.
The makeover was done for about 3 hours only in one afternoon and total cost to implement amounted to less than $50. According to Dr. Hanks, these low-cost but effective changes not only preserve choice but also can eventually lead children to develop habits of choosing and eating healthier foods even if left with less healthy options. He added that these simple changes could likewise be effective in the cafeterias of other establishments like hospitals, retirement homes, companies and other organizations.
Elsevier Health Sciences. Smarter lunchrooms make lunch choices child’s play. ScienceDaily.