I just found out this week about a new website that some brilliant nutrition minds at Cornell University have put together to try to attack the issue of school lunches. You have likely heard about the technique of eliminating vending machines and cutting out chips and candy but that has hardly done much to improve the quantity and quality of food offered for lunch.
The website smarterlunchrooms.org is aimed at school officials to show them how to design lunch rooms to encourage healthy eating, rather than forcing it. The ideas of the past have been to just simply eliminate certain foods but that doesn't teach the kids anything on how to choose healthy foods and why.
One of the researchers behind this website is Brian Wansink, PhD who has done a lot of research in the area of mindless eating. I have heard him speak and read his book Mindless Eating and he has some really great ideas on how to combat this obesity epidemic.
Accept only cash for desserts and soft drinks. Debit cards can be used for other foods, but if they want these high calorie, low nutrient foods they have to carry cash.
Descriptive names equal more sales. Instead of "vegetable soup" call it "rich vegetable medley soup." In one of his studies this produced 28% more sales and increased ratings of the soup, lunchroom, and chef.
Use smaller plates. When you put the same amount of food on a small plate vs a big plate you think you are getting more value and it makes the food appear bigger.
Make veggies cool for kids. Calling carrots "x-ray vision carrots" doubled how many preschoolers took and ate. However, calling a food the "food of the day" decreases sales.
What ideas do you have to provide kids with healthier options AND actually have them eat them at lunchtime?