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Strawberries, Watermelon, Grapes, Oh My!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Erik Peterson 703-739-3900
epeterson@schoolnutrition.org

Strawberries, Watermelon, Grapes, Oh My!
Study Finds Students Will Opt for Healthy Foods in the Lunch Line

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (December 7, 2007) Strawberries, grapes, and yogurt are just some of the healthier food items children prefer, researchers argue in a new study released this week. Kent State University researchers surveyed 1,818 students in grades 3 through 12, asking them what their favorite foods were.  The study, included in the Fall 2007 issue of the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management, found that items such as strawberries, watermelon, white milk, and string cheese ranked among the “Top 20” foods, demonstrating that children will eat fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.

The researchers also found differences in taste between grade levels. Elementary school students were more likely to rank fruits much higher than older children, while “fast and familiar” foods such as chicken nuggets and hamburgers were less preferred by middle school and high school students.

Although healthy items made the “Top 20” list, children still consider pizza, French fries, and chicken nuggets among their favorite foods.  The researchers attribute this to the influence of culture on students.  On average, approximately 30% of students consume fast food on any given day, making it more likely that students will eat these foods at school.  To accommodate their tastes, school nutrition professionals offer these items, but use healthier ingredients such as whole grains, low-fat cheese, and lean meats and prepare the foods with healthier cooking techniques such as baking.

“School foodservice professionals and dietitians have been promoting the consumption of a wide variety of foods for a healthy diet,” concluded researchers .  “Menu planners should consider the inclusion of these selections (favorite foods) in their menus as means to improve nutritional quality as well as satisfaction.”

The Journal of Child Nutrition & Managementis the premier research journal for school nutrition professionals andis a publication of the School Nutrition Association

The School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. Founded in 1946, SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children’s health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education.

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