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Kids Get Their Peas From Teacher Cues

Study shows students eat more of their lunch when they sit in the classroom

SUNDAY, Oct. 20, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- In a two-year study among third graders, researchers at Columbus Children's Hospital found children who dined in the classroom with the teacher ate 21 percent more of their school lunches when compared to children who dined in a cafeteria setting.

Equally important, the study showed the classroom group drank all of their milk, compared to 75 percent consumed by the cafeteria groups. Researcher Kristina L. Houser, of the Center for Nutrition and Wellness at Columbus Children's Hospital, presented the findings yesterday at the 2002 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.

"Through our research, we observed the children who ate in the classroom under teacher supervision were drinking all of their milk," Houser says. "We started to look at why this was happening, and found that the teacher was interacting with the children and encouraging healthy eating habits."

The teacher in the study has kept her students in the classroom during lunch for more than 20 years, and works with the children on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and trying new foods, Houser says.

The researchers found vegetables were most wasted across both groups, with more than 40 percent being discarded. The data also indicated the amount of food wasted depended on the general menu of the day and the location in which the children ate their lunch.

"We'd like to conduct another study having the teacher keep the children in the classroom for lunch, but not interact with them," Houser says. "We want to determine if the relaxed setting of the classroom or the encouragement from the teacher affects the reduction of plate waste."

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on student nutrition programs.

SOURCE: Columbus Children's Hospital, news release, Oct. 19, 2002
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