FRIDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Young students are more likely
to choose healthier school lunches if they can preorder them, away
from the temptations of the sights and aromas of food in the
lunchroom, a new study finds.
The research included nearly 300 students at two elementary
schools in upstate New York. Over a four-week period, the students
used an electronic system to preorder their lunch's main dish.
About 29 percent of the students selected the healthier entree
when they were able to preorder, but that number dropped to about
15 percent when preordering was not available.
Students were also 48 percent less likely to select a healthier
main dish and 21 percent more likely to chose a less healthy main
dish when they made their choice in the lunch line instead of
preordering, the researchers added.
The findings appear in a research letter published online May 3
in the journal
The findings "demonstrate how a simple environmental change --
preordering -- can prompt children to choose healthier food,"
concluded Andrew Hanks, of Cornell University, and colleagues.
How does preordering help kids make healthier choices? According
to the researchers, "preordering could preempt hunger-based,
spontaneous selections and eliminate the sensory cues -- evocative
smells and sights -- that lead to less healthy choices."
Hanks and his team say the preordering system used in the study
was computer-based, but "paper-based systems are easy, inexpensive,
and an immediately implementable alternative" for cash-strapped
The bottom line, they say: "A smarter lunchroom is not confined
to the space between the cafeteria walls."
The Nemours Foundation has more about
children and healthy eating.