In a study that was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers have found that a longer lunch break at school could greatly improve the overall health of children. The team of researchers concluded that students with a lunch period shorter than 20 minutes consume significantly less food than the students who are not as rushed.
The findings say that students need at least 25 minutes in order to eat their meals, milk and vegetables properly. Let us not forget that in those 25 minutes children also have to wait in serving lines, leaving them with about 10 minutes to actually enjoy their meal. The researchers suggest that schools should step up and come with new strategies to move children to dining rooms quicker, or speed up the process of serving.
In the US, many children from low-income families often rely on school meals to give them up to half of their daily dose of energy. Juliana Cohen, lead author of the study and professor at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Boston, said that it is essential to give students an adequate amount of time so they can be able to finish their lunches.
Thanks to the National School Lunch Programme, more than 30 million students from 100,000 schools across the country, are receiving free meals at their school. Eric Rimm, one of the study’s author professor at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Boston, said that he was amazed that so little research has been done on this subject, considering its magnitude.
The study looked at one thousand students from 6 elementary and middle schools from a low-income school district in Massachusetts. All schools offered lunch periods spanning from 20 to 30 minutes. Thereby, they examined what are the effects of different lunch periods on the students’ meal choices and total intake.
The researchers have reviewed the students’ food selection and what is their level of consumption by observing what was left on their food plates after the lunch period ended. The team found that the children who had less than 20 minutes at their disposal to eat lunch consumed 12% less food than the students with at least 25 minutes lunch breaks. The students with less time to eat consumed 14% less entree, 10% less milk, and 12% less vegetables. Moreover, the students with less time to eat consumed considerably lower amounts of fruits.
Another important reminder of this issue is that there was significantly more food waste in the schools with short lunch breaks.
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