The Super Simple Trick to Get Kids to Eat More Greens and Fruits!

Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables has always been a challenging task for many parents. But now, researchers at Cornell have discovered a remarkably easy solution–have your kids play outside before lunch. This simple fix can significantly increase your child’s fruit and vegetable consumption during school lunchtime.

Why this works

By scheduling recess before lunch, children come to the table with healthier appetites and are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables. Researchers find that when recess is held after lunch, kids often rush through their meals to maximize their playtime, which usually results in wasted fruits and vegetables.

The Cornell researchers conducted a study involving more than 22,000 interactions in school cafeterias where children ate either before or after playing outside at recess. They found that in schools that switched recess to before lunch, children ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables. There was also a 45 percent increase in those consuming at least one serving of fruits and vegetables.

During the two-week study, fruit and vegetable consumption decreased in schools that had kids eat before going outside to play. Thus, making this simple swap in scheduling during the school day can lead to healthier eating habits and less waste in schools.

The long-term benefits

Making this change can have lasting positive impacts on your child’s health. Encouraging a love for fruits and vegetables at a young age can lead to lifelong healthy eating habits, which in turn, contribute significantly to overall wellness.

According to the American Heart Association, consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in these nutritious foods can aid in digestion and support a healthy immune system.

In addition to the health benefits for children, schools and districts faced with the high costs of offering healthier food choices also benefit from decreased waste of fruits and vegetables.

Implementing this change at home

While this study primarily focused on the impacts of scheduling at school, parents can try implementing this strategy at home as well. Encourage your kids to engage in physical activity before meals by involving them in fun outdoor activities or household chores.

This strategy can be extended beyond just lunchtime–consider having your kids play outside before dinner or other meals. By getting their heart rates up and building their appetites, kids may be more inclined to eat their fruits and vegetables at every meal.

Further support for healthier eating

In addition to scheduling recess before lunch, other strategies can be employed to further support children’s fruit and vegetable consumption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends making fruits and vegetables more appealing by offering them in new and exciting ways:

  • Cut fruits and vegetables into fun shapes or create colorful fruit salads.
  • Cook with fresh herbs, spices, and citrus juices to add flavor to cooked vegetables without added sodium.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables as a snack with yogurt or hummus for dipping.

Finally, parents can set a positive example for their children by incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into their own diets and sharing their enjoyment with their kids. By creating a home environment that celebrates healthy eating, parents can significantly influence their children’s appetite for nutritious foods.

In conclusion, something as simple as scheduling playtime before meals can have a significant impact on improving children’s fruit and vegetable consumption. Coupled with other creative strategies, this easy fix can help instill lifelong healthy eating habits and contribute to overall wellness for our kids.