Vegetable consumption in the United States is low despite the wealth of evidence that vegetables play an important role in reducing risk of various chronic diseases. Because eating patterns developed in childhood continue through adulthood we need to form healthy eating habits in children. The objective of this study was to determine if offering vegetables before other meal components would increase the overall consumption of vegetables at school lunch. We served kindergarten through fifth grade students a ¼ cup portion of a raw vegetable while they waited in line to receive the rest of their lunch meal. They then had the options to take more of the vegetable they were just served, a different vegetable, or no vegetable from the lunch line. Vegetables were cut to have the same dimensions, and the same number of pieces was placed in all cups. We measured the amount of each vegetable consumed by each child. Broccoli and sweet bell peppers were tested on separate days. Serving vegetables first increased the number of students eating vegetables from 41 of 544 students on broccoli control days to 209 of 515 students on broccoli first days and from 34 of 533 students on pepper control days to 149 of 528 students on peppers first days. The mean weight of vegetables consumed per student eating school lunch also increased from control to intervention days in tests for both broccoli (1.9 to 3.1 grams) and peppers (4.2 to 5.4 grams). On intervention days, 70% of the broccoli consumed and 75% of the peppers consumed came from the vegetables first portions. Serving vegetables first is a viable strategy to increase vegetable consumption in elementary schools. Long-term implementation of this strategy may have a large impact on healthy eating habits, vegetable consumption, and the health consequences of vegetable intake.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. June 2014. Major: Food science. Advisor: Zata Vickers. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 74 pages, appendix p. 73-74.
Serving vegetables first: a strategy to increase vegetable consumption in elementary schools.
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