April 06 2015 – Robert Fiumara
Children tend to choose less healthy options, especially at school and with their friends. Foods like candy, potato chips, and sugar-laden drinks and cereals are often the go-to for any child when their parents or guardians are away. But recently, a study published in the JAMA Pediatric journey revealed a startling truth: when professional chefs are used children tend to eat healthier options like fresh fruits and vegetables. Trained chefs have the knowledge and creativity to make fruits and veggies look and taste much more appealing, especially for children. Presentation played a big role in what options children chose: when they were offered steamed veggies that were lightly flavored and very colorful, they ate more than if they were given piles of unpleasant look mashed veggies.
Since many of the United States children rely on school meals for at least half of their daily allotment of calories, it’s extremely important they are presented with and making healthy meal choices. Nearly a third of school-aged children are heading toward obesity but when junk food and food high in calories are presented alongside health options, children will more than likely choose healthier options. The increase in healthy choices wasn’t seen immediately but occurred over a period of several months. The only healthy change that children weren’t persuaded to make was the preference of chefs and nutritionists of white mile over chocolate milk. Chefs suggest that if schools really want to make that change, they’ll need to remove flavored milks from cafeterias, entirely.
Many may wonder how school districts were able to afford professional chefs but surprisingly, many of the chef’s in the study volunteered their time and expertise, with no charge. The wonderful news is that chefs can teach kitchen cooks many of the skills they learned in culinary schools – most of which can be used to urge children to make healthier food choices. Also of note is that professional chefs can bring cost cutting skills to the school kitchens, including more efficient use of food, menu planning, and inventory control.
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