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Want your child to eat more fruits and veggies? Lunch after recess might help

Through first-hand experience, most parents understand that if a child has enough of an appetite he or she will eat what is put on the plate.

But now there is a study scheduled to appear in the February issue of the journal Preventive Medicine that backs that up.

“Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids,” said Joe Price, the lead author and an economics professor at Brigham Young University, in a press release, “If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time.”

The study, done in collaboration with David Just of Cornell University, involved seven Utah schools that were undergoing changes in lunch schedules, and that provided an opportunity to conduct a study, reported USA Today.

“This put us in a unique position to evaluate the impact of a changing recess before lunch since we were already collecting data at the schools making the change as well as some very similar schools nearby,” Price told USA Today.

Four of the schools kept to their daily schedule of having recess after lunch while three of the schools changed the students' recess to before lunch, BYU reported.

At each school, the researchers stood next to the lunchroom trash cans and recorded the fruit and vegetable waste or consumption of each student, who ranged from first- to sixth-graders.

According to the study, after analyzing 22,939 data points the researchers found that of the schools that switched the recess schedule to before lunch the children ate around 54 percent more fruit and vegetables.

The researchers also found that there was a 45 percent increase in the number of the students who were eating at least one serving of fruit or vegetables.

Meanwhile, the fruit and vegetable consumption decreased in the schools that did not manipulate lunch times and held recess after eating.

The study authors believe that these statistics show that students are hungrier after recess and that lunch after recess allows the students not to be in a hurry to finish or escape their mealtime in order to have more recess time, reported USA Today.

The researchers asserted that an increase in fruit and vegetables intake for youth can and does have positive health effects, reported the university.

“Additionally, decreasing waste of fruits and vegetables is important for schools and districts that are faced with high costs of offering healthier food choices,” the researchers noted.

With the recent federal guidelines that mandate school lunches, the researchers believe they have learned more about what motivates students to eat healthier foods.

“It's not always what's on the tray that matters,” Just said to USA Today. “Sometimes it's what you were doing before or after lunch that makes the difference.”

Email: kclark@deseretnews.com Twitter: @clark_kelsey3