Healthy eating among schoolkids might be a matter of time, say Harvard researchers. A recent study has made a connection between longer lunch periods and healthier eating among the kids, stating that students who have less than 20 minutes to eat end up eating drastically less nutritional food, such as milk or vegetables, than those who can take their time during lunch.
Senior co-author of the study Juliana Cohen explained that a lot of children – especially those coming from lower-income families – need the school meals to make up for half of their daily energy intake. Therefore, allowing students plenty of time to consume their food turns out to be essential in their healthy growth.
Another co-author, Eric Rimm, said he was surprised at how little research has been done on the efficiency of the National School Lunch Program. Feeding over 30 million children in 100,000 schools across the U.S., the program’s results have yet to be determined.
In spite of the federal government’s involvement in developing better guidelines so the school lunches are more nutritional, there is still no rule or standard regarding the time spent eating. Researchers noticed that under allocating under 20 minutes for lunch may be insufficient and in detriment of healthy eating.
Five minutes can make a difference; data showed that a lunch period shorter than 20 minutes resulted in children consuming 10 percent less of their milk, 12 percent less of their veggies, and 13 percent less of their entrees, compared to students who were allowed to eat for at least 25 minutes.
And the science backs it up: those with less time to eat were 13 percent less inclined to select and eat a fruit. Moreover, food waste rates were higher among students who didn’t have time to finish their lunch.
When they did the math, researchers discovered children actually had around 10 minutes to sit and eat, the others being spent on waiting in serving lines or running on hallways late for lunch.
The study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics acknowledged the fact that not all schools would be capable of prolonging their lunch periods. However, there are other strategies that would help them sit down more, such as moving kids quicker through lunch lines by adding more checkout lines.
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