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Nutrition News: What Kids Will Eat

Charlyn Fargo on

A recently published study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights kids' eating preferences.

We often think kids won't eat something healthy, but this study found otherwise.

The study looked at the availability of lower-sodium lunches in middle schools and how well-accepted the lower-sodium entrees were by students. The surprising thing? Students actually preferred lower-sodium entrees and fruits and vegetables.

Data for the study was collected in 13 kindergarten through eighth grade schools in a large school district in New England. Two of the kitchens prepared and cooked meals from scratch on-site. Two others provided students with a salad bar with multiple fresh fruit and vegetable options daily and meals with locally sourced foods. The rest of the schools had limited cafeterias and minimal kitchen space and only were capable of preparing prepackaged heat-and-serve meals that were provided by outside vendors (but were similar in sodium levels).

Two separate plate waste measurements were collected from the 1,985 students in the study. Sodium levels for the meals were categorized as "moderate sodium", which met the current U.S. Department of Agriculture's Target 2 sodium requirement of less than 935 milligrams for a meal, and "low sodium," meeting the current USDA Target 3 sodium requirement of less than 640 milligrams for a meal. The overall meals selected by students had on average 711 milligrams of sodium, with 87% of meals selected meeting the Target 2 sodium standards, and 34% meeting the Target 3 sodium standards.

The bottom line? Schools can provide lower-sodium meals that are acceptable to students. It goes back to what Ellyn Satter, a leading dietitian in the field of children's eating habits, preaches: "Offer children healthy meals, and eventually, they will eat them." Our job as parents is to continue to offer healthy choices and not second-guess whether a child will eat it.

 

Q and A

Q: If an egg has a crack in the shell, is it still OK to use?

A: It depends on the size of the crack, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It's true that salmonella bacteria, which is associated with food-borne illness, can enter eggs through a crack in the shell. A study in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture found that eggs with large cracks in the shells were more likely to contain salmonella compared with eggs without cracks or with only hairline cracks. It's wise to check the carton of eggs before you buy it to make sure none of the eggs is cracked. If you find an egg that does have a crack when you get it home, break it into a container; cover it; refrigerate it; and use it within two days, the USDA says.

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