In addition to learning to read, write and do sums, kids can learn to make healthier snack choices at school, reported Michigan State University researchers.
“When healthful food options are offered, students will select them, eat them and improve their diet,” said Katherine Alaimo, MSU associate professor of food, science and human nutrition. “Our study shows that schools can make the kinds of changes required by the forthcoming USDA guidelines, and these changes can have a positive impact on children’s nutrition.”
To conduct their study, Alaimo and her team evaluated nutrition requirements that parallel the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks nutrition standards. Those recommendations establish limits on calories, salt, sugar and fat in foods and beverages. In addition, the USDA rules promote snack foods with more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
The results of their research: Smart Snacks can teach kids to prefer carrots to cookies or candy. Schools that swapped healthy snacks for unhealthy choices in vending machines, for example, improved their students’ overall daily consumption of fruit by 26 percent, vegetables by 14 percent and whole grains by 30 percent.
In addition, the schools scrutinized by the researchers took steps to promote healthy food choices and even had free sampling of healthy foods and beverages. And they discovered that the kids’ diets improved overall, not just in their choices at school, making positive strides in battling childhood obesity.
“Creating school environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice allows students to practice lessons learned in the classroom and form good habits at an early age, laying a foundation for a healthy future,” said Shannon Carney Oleksyk, a contributor to the study.
However, it’s not always easy to follow through at home. On the November 12 episode of “The Biggest Loser,” for example, the child ambassadors returned to take part in a healthy cooking contest.