-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A few simple and inexpensive
changes to school cafeterias can help encourage children to eat
healthier foods at lunch, a new study finds.
The changes included improving the convenience and
attractiveness of fruits and vegetables (such as placing fresh
fruit in nice bowls or tiered stands next to the cash register) and
having cafeteria staff prompt children to choose fruits and
vegetables by asking them questions such as, "Would you like to try
The "smarter lunchroom" makeover took no more than three hours
in one afternoon and cost less than $50, according to the
researchers at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child
Nutrition Programs, in Ithaca, N.Y.
The program was tested in the cafeterias of two junior-senior
high schools (grades 7 to 12) in western New York. After the
makeover, students were 13 percent more likely to select fruits and
23 percent more likely to take vegetables, according to the study,
which was published Feb. 22 in the
Journal of Pediatrics.
When researchers recorded what was left on trays after lunch,
they found fruit consumption had increased 18 percent and vegetable
consumption rose 25 percent. The likelihood that students would eat
whole servings of fruits or vegetables increased 16 percent and 10
percent, respectively, they said.
This low-cost, effective approach could help combat rising rates
of childhood obesity in the United States, said study author Andrew
Hanks. Last year, the U.S. government introduced regulations to
make school lunches more nutritious. But children can't be forced
to eat these healthier lunches.
The "smart lunchroom" makeover "not only preserves choice, but
has the potential to lead children to develop lifelong habits of
selecting and consuming healthier foods even when confronted with
less healthy options," Hanks noted.
These changes could also prove effective in the cafeterias of
hospitals, retirement homes, businesses and other organizations, he
The Nemours Foundation has more about
children and healthy eating.
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