A new set of Cornell University studies offer real hope that we can improve school lunch nutrition without doing a thing about school lunch nutrition. Kids, the scientists found, will eat better day after day more fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets if cafeterias sell the same food, but present it differently. Here are some of the ridiculously simple changes that make a real difference:
1. Put fruit in a fruit bowl.
When cafeterias put fruit in colorful fruit bowls, rather than those stainless steel bowls that are the staples of the institutional food service industry, kids doubled their intake of fruit. That's right: Sales increased 100%.
2. Sell salad near the checkout.
Want kids to eat more salad? Don't hide the salad bar off to the side: Put it right in front of the cash register. Salad bar sales tripled when schools tried this. Another study found that sales of salad increased by one-third if a cafeteria worker simply asked each child, "Do you want a salad?"
3. Use smaller bowls.
If you give a kid a 14-ounce bowl, rather than an 18-ounce bowl, they'll eat 24% less cereal.
4. Create a "healthy express" checkout line.
Kids are twice as likely to choose a healthy lunch if the healthy option lets them check out faster than kids who choose calorie-dense desserts and chips.
5. Hide the sweets.
It's not necessary to ban sugary foods to alter buying patterns. Placing chocolate milk behind plain milk, and storing ice cream in a freezer with a closed, opaque top led students to choose more plain milk and less ice cream.
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