The next time you want to be sure your child eats his or her veggies, take them outside to play first. A new research study has found that serving lunch soon after recess leads children to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Researchers identified that 45% more elementary students consumed at least one serving of fruits and vegetables when they were served lunch soon after recess, with the total fruit and vegetable consumption increasing by 50%.
David Just, Cornell University professor and co-author of the study, says that he examined seven elementary cafeterias in Orem over the spring and fall of 2011. He noted that students skipped portions of their meal when lunch was served before recess. However, when the students were served lunch just after recess, the children's appetite had increased and they were more likely to eat everything on their plates.
"Not only do little ones consume much more vegetables, but they throw much less away" Just says. "For a school trying to serve fantastic fruits and vegetables, it really is encouraging to know you can get much more in the tummy and significantly less in the trash".
The study was in response to concerns by schools in Utah and around the nation of increased food waste after the new lunch guidelines went into effect in 2010. The Healthful, Hunger-Totally Free Kids Act regulated calorie counts and portion sizes, and also required more whole grains and healthier food choices, as well.
While conducted in response to concerns over waste, this study is also good news for those concerned with childhood obesity, as more and more fruits and vegetables are consumed in place of unhealthy alternatives. Childhood obesity has become a growing concern over the last several years with rates more than doubling in the past thirty years. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
Obese children are more at risk for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and also suffer from diabetes at an increased rate. Though most believe an increasingly sedentary lifestyle combined with a high calorie diet are the major causes of these rates in both children and adults.
Just by simply changing the times of recess, children are eating more fruits and vegetables to fill them up instead of high calorie, sugar-filled treats that pack on the pounds. In the fight against childhood obesity, this simple act could help children of all ages eat a more balanced diet and live a healthier life.