A new study found that schools that collaborated with a professional chef to improve the taste of healthy school lunches saw an increase in students’ consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The study, which was conducted by the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that utilizing professional chefs in school cafeteria may improve the way students consume fruits and vegetables in the school cafeteria.
For their study, the researchers assigned a program of chef-enhanced meals at four randomly selected schools among a total of 14 taking part in the trial. The study involved 2,638 students from grades three to eight. Some of the schools received chef-planned meals, some used ‘choice architecture’ (environmental nudges), and others used both.
The researchers found that the students attending schools assisted by chefs chose 8% more vegetables compared with their counterparts in schools that did not receive assistance from a chef. After seventh months, the students in chef-assisted schools had 30% increased odds of choosing a vegetable and were 20% more likely to opt for fruits than the students at other schools.
Juliana Cohen, research associate at Harvard School of Public Health, and the lead author of the study, said, “The results highlight the importance of focusing on the palatability of school meals. Partnerships with chefs can lead to substantial improvements in the quality of school meals and can be an economically feasible option for schools. Additionally, this study shows that schools should not abandon healthier foods if they are initially met with resistance by students.”
However, the researchers added that there were no changes when it comes to consumption of entree selections and regular milk over chocolate milk.
The researchers have now urged schools to take the help of professional chefs in order to improve the taste and the presentation of their food.