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Schools Help Kids Make Healthier Choices

Update Date: Nov 15, 2013 08:38 AM EST

Schools play a crucial role in kids’ health. When schools adopt healthful nutrition policies and practices, kids' diets improved, a new study suggests.

According to research, when schools offered healthy snacks during lunchtime a la carte or vending, kids showed improvements in their diets.

“When healthful food options are offered, students will select them, eat them and improve their diet,” said Katherine Alaimo, MSU associate professor of food, science and human nutrition in 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 study was led by Michigan State University.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to ensure that all schools implement the Smart Snacks nutrition standards by the latest of July 1, 2014. The standards include recommendations on calorie limits, salt, sugar and fats in foods as well as beverages. The recommendations will also promote snack foods with more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.

Alaimo, with her colleagues, researched using the similar standards set by the USDA’s new requirement. They also demonstrated how Smart Snacks carried the potential to improve students’ eating habits.

Statistically, schools that initiated standards for snacks and beverages by providing healthful snacks during lunchtime a la carte or vending programs, helped increase students’ daily consumption of fruits by 26 percent. Vegetable consumption increased by 14 percent and whole grains by 30 percent.

Apart from the increments in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains consumption, students also increased their consumption of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

“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,” added Shannon Carney Oleksyk, a contributing author in the press release.

The study is published in the current issue of Childhood Obesity.

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