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Cutting Meal Size May
Get Kids to Eat Veggies

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) - Reducing the portion of pizza burgers and chicken nuggets on kids' lunch plates may be one way of getting them to eat their veggies, according to a report presented here Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting.

``We speculate if we can alter entree size, we can affect consumption of fruits and vegetables,'' said Kristina Houser, a child nutrition research associate at the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Houser and her colleagues tracked eating patterns among 410 children in grades 1 to 5 at a local elementary school during the school year. The researchers filmed more than 5,000 student meals and evaluated the percentage of plate waste.

The investigators found that, on average, children ate 67% of their entire lunch.

``Students eat two-thirds and pitch the rest,'' Houser noted. ''However, if kids like their entree and eat more of it, they tended to eat less of their fruits and vegetables.''

So Houser hypothesized that decreasing the size of the entree may be a way to subtly get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. Overall in the US, fewer than 15% of schoolchildren meet the recommended daily allotment of fruit, and fewer than 20% meet the recommendations for vegetables, she said.

More than 27 million students participate daily in the National School Lunch Program, which mandates the inclusion of fruits and vegetables. Reduction of entree size may free up money that school nutritionists can allocate toward fresh fruits and vegetables rather than canned, according to Houser.

``That's important, because the kids like fresh fruits and vegetables, but that's more expensive,'' she said.

Houser also found that offering a choice between two fruits and two vegetables increased the number of students choosing to buy a school lunch by 17%.

``We need to encourage schools to do that,'' she said.

Because school lunches are regulated for nutritional content while store-bought lunches can be less than nutritious, Houser noted, children would ultimately benefit.

``Children who eat at school lunch programs,'' she said, ``eat better than those who don't.''

Reference Source 89


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