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Trying to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables always has been a been a difficult task. But now researchers at Cornell have identified a quick and nag-free solution.
Have the kids play outside before lunch.
The Cornell researchers were investigating ways to get more students to eat fruits and vegetables at lunch rather than passing them up or throwing them in the trash. Their experiment shows that fruit and vegetable consumption in school cafeterias climbs significantly if recess is held before kids eat.
“Recess is often held after lunch so children hurry to ‘finish’ so that they can go play – this results in wasted fruits and vegetables,” says researcher David Just. “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 finish their fruits and vegetables.”
The scientists recorded more than 22,000 interactions in school cafeterias where children either ate before or after playing outside at recess. They found that in schools that switched recess to before lunch, children ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables. There was also a 45 percent increase in those eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables. During the study, which lasted about two weeks, children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables dipped in the schools that made kids eat before going outside to play.
The researchers observe: “…increased fruit and vegetable consumption in young children can have positive long term health effects. Additionally, decreasing waste of fruits and vegetables is important for schools and districts that are faced with high costs of offering healthier food choices.”