How schools can get kids to eat fruits and veggies
Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables does not have to be difficult. In fact, one simple change just might do the trick.
Researchers say that when schools hold recess before lunch, fruit and vegetable consumption will increase by 54 percent and there will be a 45 percent increase in kids eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables.
“Recess is often held after lunch so children hurry to ‘finish’ so that they can go play—this results in wasted fruits and vegetables,” said David Just, PhD, co-study author and behavioral economist at Cornell University, in a statement. “However, we found that if recess is held before lunch, students come to lunch with healthy appetites and less urgency and are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables.”
Children at a school district in Orem, Utah were studied for thirteen days. Three of the schools switched to recess before lunch and four schools continued to have recess after lunch. Data was collected by researchers standing near the trash can in the lunch room and measuring the amount of fruits and vegetables ending up in the trash, as well as whether or not the student had eaten a serving of fruits or vegetables.
Getting some kids to eat their fruits and veggies can be challenging regardless of when they have recess. Barbara Fine, a registered dietician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. offers these tips to parents:
- Set a good example by eating fruits and vegetables.
- Provide a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially ones with different colors because kids eat with their eyes.
- Try serving them in different ways: raw, cooked, chopped and shredded or add them to soups, sauces and stir-fry.
- Bring kids to the grocery store and let them pick out the fruits and vegetables they want to try. Then, they are more part of the process of eating something new and different.
“Keep lunches simple – some whole grain carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables,” Fine says. “Cut up fruits and vegetables so they are easy to eat. Do not overstuff sandwiches so kids cannot finish it. It’s okay to send half if that is more likely to be consumed in the time provided.”
A few examples of healthy lunch ideas include: a peanut butter or turkey sandwich, cucumber slices, and blueberries; leftover whole grain pasta, vegetables and applesauce or a fresh apple or string cheese, whole grain crackers, carrots and a peeled orange clementine.
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