Students in school that have less than 20 minutes of lunchtime tend to eat less than students with more time to eat. In under 20 minutes they chose to eat less of the food given to them. The students also are more likely to not choose any of the fruits that go with their own meal. This was all said by Harvard researchers and reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
With a large obesity rate in the U.S. it would seem to most that eating less would be a good idea, but these lunches may just be the only healthy meal a student will have throughout their day. Experts say that when kids don’t eat enough to satisfy their hunger at lunchtime, it’s more likely for them to consume unhealthy foods later in the day.
“There has been a lot of attention given to the quality of the lunches over the past four or five years there have been big steps forward,” say Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There hasn’t been many research on the length of time children have to eat their lunch.”
Rimm and his colleagues conducted a study on the eating habits of 1000 and multiple elementary and middle schools in a low income school district in Massachusetts. Each of the schools had a lunch period of 20 to 30 minutes. They analyzed what the students chose in their meals and how much of their meals they consumed.
Children with less than just 20 minutes ate 13 percent less of their meals, 12 percent less of their vegetables, and 10 percent less of their milk. Compared to students who had a 25 minute long lunch period.
Locally, administrators with the Sacramento City Unified School District are pushing for more healthy food options for students and increased food literacy across all grade levels.