How Recess Helps Kids Eat Healthier

A recent study found that simply scheduling recess before lunch led school kids to eat 54 percent more vegetables. Here’s how parents can benefit from these findings.

Big hat tip to Andrea at our sister site Vibrant Wellness Journal for hipping us to this recess study.

Recess in Utah elementary schools is normally after lunch, and the study looked at 2500 school children. At three of the schools, they rearranged the day so that recess was before lunch. That was the only change they made. And those children ate dramatically more vegetables.

How Recess Helps Kids Eat Healthier

Not only did kids who had recess before lunch eat better, they also wasted less food. And you know how we feel about food waste around here!

That makes sense, right? Kids who run and play get hungrier, and are more likely to eat their food. But that’s not the only thing that the researches say is at play here. Study author Joe Price explains, “Recess is a pretty big deal for most kids. If you have kids choose between playing and eating their veggies, the time spent playing is going to win most of the time.”

So, how can parents put these findings to work at home? Here are my two main take-aways:

1. Let your kids play before eating. If you can get them to a park or playground, all the better. Wear them out, so that sitting down to a meal feels like a welcome rest, not like something to get through before they get to play.

2. Don’t force your kids to eat. I’ve seen this in action with my own son. If my two-year-old isn’t ready to eat, he says “All done!” after basically every bite. And forget getting him to eat any of the veggies on his plate.

Letting them play and not forcing them to eat lets your kids get truly hungry before a meal. If they’re hungry and not feeling rushed or stressed, they’ll eat what you serve, including at least some of the vegetables.

Image Credit: Recess photo via Shutterstock

Written by Becky Striepe

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