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To Improve School Nutrition, Involve Teachers and Parents

WEDNESDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- To improve school nutrition and get children to eat healthier, involve parents, teachers and school administrators, new research finds.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Southern California looked at 400 students at eight elementary and middle schools who took part in a three-year study that examined the use of a public-health approach to improve nutrition.

During the study, the researchers worked with teachers and administrators at certain schools to improve nutrition practices. For example, they replaced food and beverage classroom rewards with non-food prizes and implemented healthy catering at school events and classroom celebrations.

For fund-raising events, they served healthy foods and beverages, awarded non-food prizes and had games such as a "prize walk" instead of a "cake walk." The researchers noted that schools actually made more money through healthy events such as jog-a-thons than carnivals with popcorn and pizza.

There was a 30 percent decrease in the amount of unhealthy foods and beverages consumed by students at these schools during the study, compared to a 26 percent increase at other schools.

The amount of healthy lunches students brought from home and other outside sources also increased at the intervention schools.

"Schools are an ideal place for establishing lifelong healthy eating habits, but until now that's been easier said than done," study lead author Karen Coleman said in a Kaiser news release. She added that the study "helped us understand how communities and schools could work together to get kids to eat healthier at school and help address childhood obesity."

The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

More information

Nemours has more about childhood nutrition.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, June 26, 2012

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