Skip to content

The Science-Backed Reason Your Kid Isn't Eating Veggies at School

Many health-conscious parents breathed a giant sigh of relief when, a few years back, Congress and the Obama administration passed new guidelines requiring more whole grains, fruits and vegetables on the lunch line.

Finally their children would have access to nutritious foods right in the school cafeteria! The only problem? Kids aren't eating it, according to a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association.

The researchers observed 274 New York City public school children in kindergarten through second grade to see how many little ones put fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk or lean proteins on their tray in the lunch line. While 75 percent of the children chose the lean protein entrée, only 59 percent asked for a vegetable and just 58 percent picked a fruit. Not such great numbers, especially considering of the healthy eaters, only 75 percent actually ate the protein on their plate and a mere 24 percent ate their vegetables. No shocker there.

Why did the kids put the healthy foods on their trays but not in their mouths? Findings suggest that the cafeteria environment, level of teacher supervision and how food is served may be to blame. Children were significantly more likely to finish their meal if a teacher ate in the cafeteria with them and if lunch periods were longer. Kids were also more apt to nosh on veggies and whole grains when the cafeteria was quieter. What's more, they found that the students were more likely to eat foods that were cut up into smaller pieces.

Will these findings play a role in forming future legislation? We'll have to wait and see. In the mean time apply some research takeaways to meal time at home. Instead of squeezing in dinner between soccer and homework in front of the TV, set aside time to sit down around the kitchen table and and savor dinner as a family. While this may take a bit more planning on your end, the more leisurely and quiet meal will only benefit your child.

Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This
Filed Under