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Let Them Eat Veggies: School Lunch Gets a Makeover

Make Healthy Foods More Enticing

Organize a tasting as part of back-to-school night, a PTA meeting, or even during lunch period. “If kids try before they buy, they may be more likely to give it a shot,” says Jessica Donze Black, RD, MPH. She is the project director for the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project at the Pew Health Group.

Brian Wansink, PhD, is the co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs in Ithaca, N.Y. “We can’t just load up kids’ trays with healthy foods and expect them to gobble it all up,” he says. “It is very important for kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it is also important to realize that we can’t force them to do that.” 

The “force-on-tray” method will increase how many vegetables kids take and eat, but it also increases how much they will waste, he says. A better bet is to make fruits look more enticing and give vegetables cool names like "big bad bean burritos."

“You have to do more than change the menu,” he says.

“Big picture, this is a good idea,” Black says. Schools that saw the changes coming had already tweaked their menus and are not experiencing any resistance from students.

See for Yourselves

Parents need to see the new lunch menus for themselves.

“Eat lunch with your child and see what is available,” Black says. Talk to food services about what has changed, and ask your children what they ate for lunch and whether or not they liked it.

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