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You are What you Eat: Schools with Healthy Options have Healthy Students

You are What you Eat: Schools with Healthy Options have Healthy Students

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First Posted: Nov 13, 2013 11:38 AM EST
School Lunch
What is your child eating at lunch? (Photo : USDA/Flickr)

Picking healthy snacks over junk food may not always be so easy, especially when peers enjoy candy bars and soda instead of apples and oranges. However, a recent study led by Michigan State University shows that when schools adopt healthful nutrition policies and practices, kids are more likely to pick up on the trend. 

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"When healthful food options are offered, students will select them, eat them and improve their diet," Katherine Alaimo, MSU associate professor of food, science and human nutrition said, via a press release. "Our study shows that schools can make the kinds of changes required by the forthcoming USDA guidelines, and these changes can have a positive impact on children's nutrition."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked that schools implement Smart Snacks nutrition standards as early as July 1, 2014. These recommendations will set limits on the calorie intake during meals, as well as salt, sugar and fat consumed from certain foods and beverages, while promoting healthier options in the process.

Alaimo and other researchers tested similar standards to the USDA's new requirements and demonstrated Smart Snacks as a potential to improve students' eating habits.

For example, schools started healthful snacks during lunchtime a la carte. Study authors found that this boosted students overall daily consumption of fruit by up to 26 percent, vegetables by 14 percent and whole grains by 30 percent. There was also an increase of fiber, calcium and vitamins A and C in their daily consumption.

Researchers compared schools that adopted a variety of nutrition programs and policies that made only limited changes to unhealthy options. Changes included raising nutrition standards for snacks and beverages, offering taste tests of healthful food and beverages for students as well as removing advertisements of unhealthy products. All of these steps helped create significant changes.

"Creating school environments where the healthy choice is the easy choice allows students to practice lessons learned in the classroom and form good habits at an early age, laying a foundation for a healthy future," Shannon Carney Olesky, a contributing author and healthy living adviser for Blue Cross Clue Sheild of Michigan said, via a release.

What are the nutrition options implemented at your child's school? Share in the comments below?

More information regarding the study can be found via here.  

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