Studies Show That Kids Eat Healthier When They Do This Activity Before Lunch

It's an easy switch with a big payoff.

In the never-ending quest to get kids to eat a bit healthier, there are a lot of theories out there. Creative strategies for sneaking more fruits and veggies into your kids’ diets abound.

There is, however, one simple change that might make getting more of the good stuff into kids’ tummies a whole lot easier. But you’ll need your children’s school to help you out. A 2011 study showed that grade school students ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables when recess was moved to before lunch, instead of the other way around, which is more typical.


Maybe all that running around helps them work up an appetite? Past research on the topic also corroborates this finding. In 2010, the The New York Times analyzed a number of studies and pilot programs that sought to determine the effects of moving recess before lunch. Their analysis found that making this simple swap was responsible for a host of benefits.

school lunch photo
Flickr |

In addition to increasing consumption of fruits and veggies, one study found the practice resulted in less food waste. Professionals also found that having recess before lunch had a positive effect on students’ behavior. Talk about a win-win.

“Kids are calmer after they’ve had recess first,” Janet Sinkewicz, principal of Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, New Jersey, told the The New York Times. “They feel like they have more time to eat and they don’t have to rush.”

Because children were calmer when they returned, that gave teachers more quality teaching time as well.

school recess photo
Flickr | A is for Angie

In spite of the plethora of research backing the idea that recess before lunch is a good practice, most schools have still not adopted it. One roadblock is scheduling problems.

“Scheduling is really difficult at schools, particularly if they’re overcrowded,” David Just, a researcher at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, told NPR.

If your kids’ school has yet to make the switch, but you think they could benefit, why not give it a whirl at home? On weekends, try letting your kids run around in the backyard before you serve lunch and see if you notice any positive changes in their eating habit or behavior. It’s worth a shot!