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Nutrition and You!

The Truth About School Lunch: Kids Like Salad Bars

When Mellissa Honeywood took the job as the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Cambridge Public Schools, she took the chicken nuggets off the menu and added garlic chicken served with whole grain pasta in order to meet the new nutrition standards for school lunches.

To date, not one student has complained.

The students are too busy chowing down on whole grain pizza with low fat cheese and assembling their personalized salads from one of the seven salad bars in the school district cafeterias. As a chef and registered dietitian nutritionist, Mellissa is adamant about providing healthy, tasty school lunches that kids will eat. About half of the students in Cambridge are eligible for free or reduced school lunches.

It appears that her success story is not unique.

A new study published today in the journal Childhood Obesity shows that 70 percent of elementary school leaders (mostly food service directors and principals) nationwide reported that students generally like the healthier school lunches, which include meals with more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

An accompanying research brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) shows that while approximately 50 percent of public elementary schools administers agreed that students complained about the healthier school lunch changes at first, the majority reported that only a few students are whining. More importantly, the majority of middle and high school students -- a tough nut to crack -- currently like the meals. These are the first national studies to examine studentsí reaction to the healthier meals.

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ďThe updated meals standards are resulting in healthier meals for tens of millions of kids,Ē said Lindsey Turner, lead author of the first study, and co-investigator for Bridging the Gap, a research program of the RWJF, which funded the study. ďOur studies show that kids are okay with these changes, and that there have not been widespread challenges with kids not buying or eating the meals.Ē

The moral of the story is that while our kids may have complained about the healthier food choices initially, they got over it. What else is new? Children also complain about powering off their electronics and being forced to go outside and play. Guess what? They will get over it.

We are wiser than they areÖat the moment.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter: @JoanSalgeBlake

Photo: Infographic courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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