Taste Tests and Salad Bars Open Minds & Expand Palates

Parents know that children’s palates can be finicky, especially when trying to expose them to healthier foods. The same challenge exists in schools, but many nutrition professionals have identified creative ways for students to experience new foods and ingredients in the cafeteria.

School meals have to meet federal nutrition standards, but schools go the extra mile to get students to consume healthy foods. According to School Nutrition Association (SNA)’s “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2018,” various efforts are underway in cafeterias, including taste tests, sampling, salad bars and nutrition education.

Wayne County Schools (NY) host the “Wayne Wednesdays” program, which showcases a food or recipe made from local ingredients. Student taste-tests have got children sampling everything from kale salad and potato leek soup to grilled brussels sprouts, multi-color cauliflower and roasted butternut squash. First just sampled with students, the county’s own version of “rock candy” is regularly on the menu now and features a sweet mix made with local root veggies like beets, parsnips and carrots.

Due to the taste tests held by school nutrition professionals at MSD of Wayne Township (IN), students might try something for the very first time – even something as a simple as a local peach. In Wayne Township schools, students participate in a nutrition education program with the district’s dietetic interns. They are given tours of the school kitchen, play “Nutrition BINGO” and learn about MyPlate, a nutrition guide that shows the five important parts of a school meal tray: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy.

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Continuous nutrition education also provides a way for students to make better choices when it comes to school meals. The importance of a balance lunch tray is often highlighted through promotional materials inside the cafeteria as well as on the school menus themselves. Schools in Rockwood School District (MO) show students exactly how to build the perfect school meal using healthy options available in the cafeteria.

Out of 1,550 school districts nationwide, the survey revealed that about half of schools are also scheduling recess before lunch, giving the students a chance to jumpstart their metabolism and increasing consumption of healthy foods. With the implementation of recess before lunch, schools set the stage for less discipline issues and better student behavior. Students are no longer in a hurry to throw food away to get to recess and are more apt to eat their meals, helping to prevent food waste.


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