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Smarter Lunchrooms Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation: Strategies to Try at Home, Part 2: Snacking Solutions!



Smarter Lunchrooms and Smarter Mealtimes strategies encourage kids to try, select, eat, and enjoy healthy food choices in schools and early childhood education (ECE) settings. But what about summer vacation when many kids are at home? Try these adapted strategies from Smarter Lunchrooms and Smarter Mealtimes to nudge kids to enjoy healthy food choices and practice healthy food habits all summer long! 

Don’t miss Part 1 of this series: Dinner Solutions!

  • Offer fruits and vegetables first at meals. This includes snacktime and dessert!
    • The first foods seen in a line are the ones most selected. Serving less healthy foods first led diners to take 31% more food items.
  • Slice or cut fruit to make it easier to eat.
    • Whole fresh fruit can be difficult to eat for those with small mouths, loose teeth, or braces, and older girls find whole fruits messy and unattractive to eat.
    • Apple sales increased by 71% and the percentage of students who chose apples and ate more than half increased by 73% at schools that served pre-sliced fruit.
  • Prompt your child to select a fruit or vegetable. Remember to smile and use a friendly voice.
    • Children took and consumed more fruit in school when politely prompted (70% of children consumed fruit during lunch vs <40% in the control).
  • Make it easy for kids to serve themselves fresh fruit as a snack. Display handheld fruits such as apples, bananas, or kiwi in an attractive bowl in a convenient, highly visible, well-trafficked spot such as the kitchen counter.
    • Presenting fruit in a more visually appealing manner resulted in children eating more fruit. 
    • Keep it fresh! Staying innovative and changing the appearance frequently (for example, by changing fruit options or switching bowls or linens) can prevent kids from becoming bored with the fruit.
  • Provide choices! Offer two types of fruit, or a fruit and a vegetable, or raw vegetables with a variety of healthy dips, or a crisp salad a vegetable. 
    • Kids appreciate the freedom to make their own food choices. If both options are healthy ones, it’s a win-win situation!
    • Children given a two-vegetable choice served themselves significantly more energy from vegetables than those offered only one vegetable.
    • Healthy, low-fat dips include salsa, hummus, or low-fat ranch. Try these quick dips!
  • Take advantage of the good weather—grow a garden.
    • If kids grow vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them.
    • Fresh greens, herbs, and some fruits (such as strawberries) can be grown in small spaces such a small garden plots, raised beds, window boxes, or pots! Some plants only need water and sunlight to grow, no soil at all! Here’s a helpful webinar on starting a nutrition education garden.
    • Our suggestion: To avoid increased plate waste, allow kids to try the vegetables first (host a taste test) or combine the garden produce with vegetables they are known to like. 
    • For added interest, encourage them to pick the recipes and help prepare the foods.
  • Use smaller plates and bowls to prevent over-consumption, especially of snacks. Never snack right from the container.
    • Both preschool-age and elementary school-age children were given either an 8-oz or a 16-oz bowl and were asked how much cereal they wanted. The preschoolers requested almost twice as much when using a bigger bowl, and the older children consumed 52% more when served in the bigger bowl.
  • Serve healthy, combined snacks rather than limiting snacking.
    • Children consumed 72% fewer calories when eating a combined snack of vegetables and cheese rather than potato chips and achieved the same level of satiety (satisfaction).
    • Giving children various healthy options can increase the likelihood of them selecting one or several of those options. 
  • Offer 1% or non-fat milk and make it more appealing by ensuring it is very cold. 
    • Lower the refrigerator temperature slightly, place milk in the freezer for a few minutes before serving, or add ice cubes to serve “milk on the rocks”).
    • White milk contains many nutrients active kids need. Consuming white milk contributed vitamin A (21%), vitamin D (54%), calcium (29%), potassium (17%), magnesium (12%), and phosphorus (19%) to children.