"Chef-Enhanced" Meals Encourage Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in School Lunches

The Physicians Committee

"Chef-Enhanced" Meals Encourage Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in School Lunches

March 26, 2015

Students are more likely to choose fruits and vegetables in the lunch line when school cafeterias collaborate with chefs to improve food taste and quality, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. For seven months, researchers followed trends in food choices of students in 14 elementary and middle schools among three different intervention groups that involved either strategic placement of foods to promote healthful choices (for example, placing fruits and vegetables before the entree), involvement of a professional chef in the food preparation process, or a combination of both.  All interventions were compared to each other and a group that received no intervention. Results showed that chefs’ improvements in food taste and quality led to a long-term increase in fruit and vegetable selection and consumption, while strategic placement of food resulted in only short-term increase.  While after three months, there was not a noticeable increase in fruit and vegetable consumption by the chef group, by seven months the improvement was significant.  A focus on school food quality and palatability with repeated exposure is an effective method to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in the school setting.

Cohen JW, Richardson SA, Cluggish SA, Parker E, Catalano PJ, Rimm EB. Effects of choice architecture and chef-enhanced meals on the selection and consumption of healthier school foods: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatr. Published online March 23, 2015.

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