Study: Children Eat More Fruits and Vegetables When the Salad Bars Are in the Lunch Line

Dec 15, 2015 10:40 AM EST | By Denise Valerie Uychiat

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It has been revealed through a recent study that kids in middle school enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables when the salad bar is in the lunch line than when it's outside the line.

According to the study's lead author Marc A. Adams of Arizona State University, they were surprised to see not at the difference in the amount of fruits and vegetables students took and consumed, but rather by the size of the difference that placement had on students' choices. He added saying that their study measured the exact weights of food items and was not, in any way affected by the students' perceptions or memories.

The researchers compared the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables picked, eaten and wasted by 533 Phoenix area middle-school students. Half of the students went to the school's salad bars in the serving line before the point of purchase and the other half went to schools where the salad bar was nowhere near the purchase line, after the point of purchase.

The students went through their normal routine in picking out their lunch food. They fall in line, chose their items as usual, and when they were done getting the food, the researchers weighed the fruit or vegetable items that they picked. After lunch, the research staff collected student trays to calculate how much fruit and vegetable were wasted.

They found that more than 98% of students at school with salad bars within the lunch line self-served either a fruit or vegetables, compared to the 23% of kids in other schools whose salad bars are away from the line. The research team also reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that those schools whose salad bars in the line also had more than four times more fruit and vegetables than other students, and threw more fruit and vegetable items away.

A single cross-sectional study cannot definitively quantify the difference salad bar position may make," said Yvonne Terry-McElrath of the University of Michigan.

"Clearly, both serving and consuming of (fruits and vegetables) increased dramatically based on salad bar position in the Adams et al. study, which is encouraging," Terry-McElrath told Reuters Health by email.

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