The University of California, Los Angeles, study included 337 children in grades 2 through 5 at three L.A. area schools. The children were interviewed before and after their schools started offering a lunch salad bar.
The frequency of the students' fruit and vegetable consumption increased from 2.97 times a day to 4.09 times a day after introduction of the lunch salad bar. There was also a considerable decline in the amount of cholesterol, saturated fat and total fat consumed by the children.
The study, published in the December issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition, included nutrition education for the students.
"One of the major contributing factors to the high rate of overweight children in the United States is that they do not consume the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables," lead author Dr. Wendy Slusser, assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and the UCLA School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.
"Increasing the availability and accessibility to healthy foods is one way to improve children's diets. In turn, this sets up opportunities for kids to have repeated exposure to healthy food and positively impact their choices," she said.
"The salad bar program showed us that children will indeed eat more fruits and vegetables if offered in an appetizing and accessible manner. Future studies should evaluate parent education with school lunch menu changes, as well as why boys are less likely to eat from the salad bar at lunch than girls," Slusser said.
The Nemours Foundation has more about healthy eating for children.
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