A new study has found that school kids with long lunch breaks choose healthier foods than those with short lunch breaks. Best part is that schools don’t even need to make any changes to their menus.
Schools have tried and failed to persuade their kids to eat healthier by hiring fancy chefs, designing amusing lunch boxes, and experimenting with playful food shapes. But a team of researchers from three (3) different institutions are now saying the problem may be time related and that if kids had more time to eat, they’d make healthier choices.
The researchers looked at the eating habits of more than 1.000 middle school and elementary school kids from the area around Boston, and concluded that the longer a lunch break is, the more fruits, vegetables, and milk, kids consume.
They asked six (6) schools to participate in the study. One (1) of them had a lunch break that only lasted 20 minutes, two (2) of them had lunch breaks that lasted 25 minutes, and three (3) of them had lunch breaks that lasted 30 minutes.
On average, students spent about 10 minutes of their lunch break making their way to the cafeteria and standing in line once they finally got there. This left those with a 20 minute lunch break with very little time to eat.
Two (2) big trends were identified by the researchers. First off, the shorter the lunch break was, the less likely the kids were to add a serving of fruit on their lunch trays.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of the subjects who were able to have at least 25 minutes to sit down and eat decided to add fruit to their lunch. But five (5) minutes make all the difference. Only 44 percent (44%) of the subjects who had 20 minutes to sit down and eat decided to add fruit to their lunch.
One potential explanation is that kids who have less time to enjoy their lunch have a habit of passing right by the fruit. The reason is that they are “trying to rush through the lunch line to maximize their amount of time to eat”. What’s more, they may also realize that they “have less time to eat and therefore only selected foods they were likely to consume”.
The other trend was that kids who had more time to eat, consumed more food. This also includes a larger portion of healthier food than kids with short breaks. When kids had 25 minutes or more to eat, they consumed 77 percent (77%) of their food. When they had somewhere between 20 and 24 minutes to eat, they consumed 70 percent (70%) of their food. And when they had 20 minutes or less to eat, they consumed 64 percent (64%) of their food.
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