A new study has linked long lunches to healthy food choices among school kids. Students who have at least 25 minutes to enjoy their food will include fruits, vegetable and milk in their lunches.
Many schools have attempted to persuade their students to make better food choices by changing their menus, hiring fancy chefs, cutting their fruits and vegetables in playful shapes, and designing amusing lunch boxes, but most of these efforts have failed to give results.
Now, a team of researchers from Project Bread (a nonprofit organization based in Boston), the Harvard School of Public Health, and Merrimack College (Massachusetts), have come to the conclusion that the problem may be related to the time that kids have to eat, rather than the actual foods.
For their project, the field experts looked at over 1000 elementary school and middle school students living in the Boston area and examined their eating habits. They wrote in their study that the number of kids who added fruits, vegetables, and milk to their lunch increased significantly when their subjects had longer lunch breaks.
The team asked six (6) schools to take part in the study. Three (3) of them gave their students 30 minute lunch breaks, two (2) of them gave their students 25 minute lunch breaks, and one of them gave its students 20 minute lunch breaks.
The researchers noted that most kids needed about 10 minutes to walk to the cafeteria and stand in line once they finally made it there. As a direct consequence, those with short lunch breaks were not left with enough time to eat proper meals.
The researchers noticed two (2) big trends. On one hand, the less time kids had to enjoy their lunch, the more unlikely they were to incorporate healthy foods in their meal.
For comparison, when they had 25 minutes or more to enjoy their lunch, 57 percent (57%) of kids made the choice to put a serving of fruit on their lunch trays. But when they had 20 minutes or less to enjoy their lunch, the number of kids who made the choice to put a serving of fruit on their lunch trays dropped down to 44 percent (44%).
The research team theorized that if kids have little time to eat, they will likely pass right by the healthy food because they are “trying to rush through the lunch line to maximize their amount of time to eat”. Additionally, students in this situation may also be aware of the fact that they “have less time to eat and therefore only selected foods they were likely to consume”. Preferred foods.
The second big trend was that students ate more food when they had more time to enjoy their lunch. They consumed larger portions of both healthier foods and less healthier foods. When students had at least 25 minutes to enjoy their lunch, they ate 77 percent (77%) of their meal. When students had anywhere between 20 and 24 minutes to enjoy their lunch, they ate 70 percent (70%) of their meal. When students had 20 minutes or less to enjoy their lunch, they ate 64 percent (64%) of their meal.
As for the healthy food in particular, kids with long lunch breaks consumed 47 percent (47%) of their vegetables and 73 percent (73%) of their milk, whereas kids with short lunch breaks only consumed 35 percent (35%) of their vegetables and 62 percent (62%) of their milk.
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