Why Schools Should Give Kids More Time at Lunch
Before now, saying that lunch was your favorite period in school was like wearing sweatpants to work—an acknowledgment that you had basically given up. But a new study suggests that spending more time at lunch is actually good for students’ well-being.
The research, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, looked at the eating behavior of 1,001 elementary and middle school students in the Boston area. What the team found was, when students had more time to eat, they chose to eat many more fruits and vegetables.
Lunch times for the kids varied from under 20 minutes up to 33, but the sweet spot for making sure students choose to eat healthier was 25 minutes. When they had more than 25 minutes to eat, 57 percent proactively picked up fruit that wasn’t included in their meal, compared with only 44 percent of those who had less than 20 minutes. The students with longer lunch periods also ate 12 percent more of their vegetable sides. Researchers found this by both watching the kids take their lunches and then weighing out the trays afterwards to see how much they’d eaten.
The fact that a variable like time allotted for lunch can encourage kids to eat better is welcome news for anyone concerned about school lunches, because both anecdotal and researched evidence points to kids throwing away fruits and vegetables en masse.
You’re never going to get every picky 12-year-old to choose broccoli and bananas over Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos, but it seems that giving them a little more time to make that choice is a step in the right direction.