Young students are more likely to choose healthier school lunches if they can
preorder them, away from the temptations of the sights and aromas of food in the
lunch room, a new study finds.
The research included nearly 300 students at two elementary schools in
upstate New York. Over a four-week period, the students used an electronic
system to preorder their lunch's main dish. About 29% of the students selected the healthier entree when they were able
to preorder, but that number dropped to about 15% when preordering was not
Students were also 48% less likely to select a healthier main dish and 21%
more likely to chose a less healthy main dish when they made their choice in the
lunch line instead of pre-ordering, the researchers added.
Helping kids eat healthier
The findings "demonstrate how a simple environmental change - preordering -
can prompt children to choose healthier food," concluded Andrew Hanks, of
Cornell University, and colleagues.
How does preordering help kids make healthier choices? According to the
researchers, "preordering could preempt hunger-based, spontaneous selections and
eliminate the sensory cues - evocative smells and sights - that lead to less
Hanks and his team say the preordering system used in the study was
computer-based, but "paper-based systems are easy, inexpensive, and an
immediately implementable alternative" for cash-strapped schools.
The bottom line, they say: "A smarter lunchroom is not confined to the space
between the cafeteria walls."
The Nemours Foundation has more about children
and healthy eating.