In the United States, almost one in five children is obese. We know that children 9 years and older are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was set up to ensure access to healthy foods. At that time, there was little consideration about how long children were given to eat lunch.
Children need to eat real food
It is recommended that children have at least 20 minutes of seated lunch time to finish their meals. However, only half of all U.S. school districts require or recommend 20 minutes of seated lunch time. Recently, researchers studied the effect of longer seated time on children’s consumption and waste of lunches prepared according to NSLP recommendations. To study this, elementary and middle school children at a summer camp were given either 20 minutes or 10 minutes to have lunch. The researchers found that during 10 minutes of seated lunch time, the children (79% Hispanic/Latino) ate less and wasted more fruit and vegetables compared with 20 minutes of seated lunch time. Main meal and drink consumption and waste did not differ between the 10 minute and 20 minute seated lunches.
Spending longer at lunch helps children socially
There were also fewer social interactions in the 10 minute seated lunch group. This suggests that longer duration allows children to connect with their peers, which they may not be able to do during the academic school day. These results support letting children take longer for lunch to help improve diet quality and reduce food waste. Children should also sit for lunch.
Photo by U.S. Government at Rawpixel