Kids pick healthier foods when they order their school lunches online and get reminders about good nutrition, a new study suggests.
The study included three groups of fifth- and sixth-graders. Two groups ordered their lunches online. In one group, kids who did not select all five components of a healthy lunch — meat or a meat alternative, grain, fruit, vegetable and low-fat milk — received messages (nudges) about their choices.
Kids in the third group ordered their food in the regular school lunch line.
Compared to the lunch-line group, kids who got nudges chose 51 percent more fruits; about 30 percent more vegetables; and 37 percent more low-fat milk. Those who ordered online but didn’t get nudges chose 27 percent more fruits; and roughly 16 percent more of both vegetables and low-fat milk than lunch-line group, the researchers found.
The University of Florida researchers didn’t examine what the kids actually ate. The study was published recently in the Journal of Economic Psychology.
“While more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of repeated nudging, there is evidence that low-cost nudges can encourage the selection of healthy items in the school lunchroom,” study lead author Jaclyn Kropp said in a university news release. Kropp is an assistant professor of food and resource economics.
Though nearly all American children between the ages of 12 and 18 eat fruits and vegetables every day, fewer than 1 percent eat the recommended amounts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on nutrition.