News article

Longer lunch period at schools may encourage students to eat more and discard less

Posted:  Monday, September 21, 2015

Children discarding lunch is a common sight, but maybe there is a solution after all! A recent study found that the duration of lunch period is associated with the amount of lunch consumed by students at school; a shorter lunch break meant eating less and discarding more food.

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, monitored the eating habits of 1,001 elementary and middle students over an academic year. All the students belonged to low-income schools.

The study showed that in comparison to students with 25 or more minutes of lunch time, those with 20–24 minutes ate approximately 6.9% less of their entrees, 3.7% fewer vegetables and 2.3% less milk. Students who had a lunch period lasting for less than 20 minutes consumed even lower amounts of entrees, vegetables and milk, namely 12.8%, 11.8% and 10.3% respectively.

Elaborating on these study, the lead author, Juliana F.W. Cohen (an assistant professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass) said, “We need to focus on how to get kids to select and consume the appropriate food. Giving kids enough time to eat appears to play an important role.”

She also suggested that parents can help with this issue by asking schools to extend the lunch period, increase the number of queues during lunch and introduce automated point-of-sale equipment to ensure children get sufficient time to finish their lunch.

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