I recently attended the School Nutrition Association annual conference; the conference featured innovative approaches to healthy school meals, as well as an immense exhibit hall of food and preparation products. I spent my time in the exhibit hall, encouraging nutrition professionals to use more fresh produce with the USA Pears salad bar, a unique and delicious way to offer fresh cut pears; however, as a dietitian, the sheer number of processed foods showcased at the expo was disheartening.
Having worked in a large school district, I understand how difficult it can be to prepare and offer fresh meals that meet nutrition guidelines, children’s often picky taste buds, and staff time and labor constraints. Dietitians know that children will select foods higher in saturated fat and calories if they are offered,¹ but that children exposed to and educated about fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat and enjoy them.² Learning does not only occur in the classroom; the school cafeteria is also a learning environment! An easy way to spice up the lunch line or box is with cut fruit. Studies suggest that produce preparation does influence a child’s likelihood of consumption; in other words, children are more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables if they are cut up rather than served as whole pieces.³ This is especially true for smaller children!
Mealtime is learning time. Adding more fresh foods not only meets requirements, but teaches children how to enjoy healthful foods. Why not cut a pear today?