Combining Fresh Fruit and Veggies as One Lunch Selection Can Increase Veggie Consumption Says JCN&M Study

2017-06-15

The following is the third in a series of news stories examining each of the JCN&M papers in the Spring 2017 Issue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children with obesity has tripled since the 1970’s; stating that approximately one in five school-aged children between 6 and 19 are defined as obese. Several recent studies have confirmed that by changing menus and food offerings, schools have a powerful influence on a students’ eating behavior and can create a culture of healthful culinary practices. Furthermore, since school cafeterias serve an estimated 95% of children and adolescents nationwide, it is regarded as an optimum setting for improving a child’s health.

Higher fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to not only weight management but improved the child’s overall development and academic scores. Recent studies have concluded that exposure to vegetables is a critical component to increasing its consumption among children. However, how to encourage children to eat more vegetables as part of their school lunch meals is a continuing challenge in many schools.

A new study in the Research in Action category in latest issue of SNA’s The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management tested an innovative strategy of pairing a fresh cold fruit with a cold vegetable as one lunch selection in a suburban school district and found that vegetable consumption by students was significantly increased. Pairing Fruit and Vegetables to Promote Consumption in Elementary School Cafeterias evaluated a hybrid version of the “offer versus serve” model in a school district that normally uses the offer model. The goal was to increase vegetable consumption without displacing fruit consumption.

Generally, students in this school district would have a choice of selecting the fruit, cold vegetable, or hot vegetable. But in this case, authors Anastasia Snelling, PhD, RD; Constance Newman, PhD; Erin Watts, MPH; Hugo Van Dyke, MS; Elizabeth Malloy, PhD; Yasha Gharmarian, MS; Joanne Guthrie, PhD, RD; Lisa Mancino, PhD, gave students the choice of selecting the hot vegetable and/or a fruit/vegetable combination that included a serving of fresh fruit and a cold vegetable packaged together in a clear, pint-sized bag with a sticker on the front. The hypothesis was that the pairing technique would increase the percent of students who take and consume a cold vegetable while not decreasing consumption of the fruit.

The authors found that this approach of pairing a fruit and vegetable in the school cafeteria line showed a significant increase in cold vegetable consumption. It reinforced previous research that clearly illustrated, that fruit consumption to be higher than vegetable consumption for elementary school children. Therefore, the authors conclude that pairing a food that students regularly select with a food that they rarely select may be an effective strategy for increasing consumption of dark green and orange vegetables.

Of added importance, the authors also determined there can be other factors that can influence a child’s food choice. For example, having recess before lunch has been found to significantly increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Plus, students who had more time to eat has also significantly increased consumption of milk, entrée and vegetables.


About The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management:
The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management (JCN&M) is the exclusive source for research findings in this profession, and it features a variety of studies in the following four categories: Research in Action, Current Issues, Practical Solutions and FNS Research Corner. Published twice a year, this peer-reviewed research journal is available free of charge, online only. Read the current issue today.

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