The days of greasy hamburgers and vending-machine soda at school are becoming rare. And most students are OK with it, according to a new survey, marking a step in the right direction of helping manage diabetes among children.
The survey of more than 500 public elementary school administrators and food service staff conducted during the 2012 to 2013 school year found that 7 out of 10 administrators agreed that students generally like the healthier lunches created as part of the new federal nutrition standards.
It was not always this way; about 5 out of every 10 administrators reported that students complained at first of the changes to their meals and menus. But by the end of the school year, children warmed up to their new fare.
"There have been concerns that kids didn't like the meals," Lindsey Turner, lead author of the study that was published in the journal Childhood Obesity, explained to the Wall Street Journal. "I think our study really showed that that's not the case at all."
New USDA Standards
The new school meal standards, updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and put into effect fall, 2012, help make sure kids get more whole grains and low-fat dairy products, more fruits and vegetables and less fat. These meals are provided for more than 32 million children across the U.S. who have breakfasts, lunches and snacks subsidized by the government.
While lunchtime staples such as pizza and potatoes remain on the menu, the dishes are being made with more healthful ingredients. Now, nearly 63 percent of high school students reported being in favor of the change.
"It takes students a little bit to adjust," Jessica Donze Black, a child nutrition expert for Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit that promotes healthy school meals, told The Wall Street Journal. "A majority of schools are doing well, and we should be able to learn from those schools and move forward with the schools that are still struggling."
Schools with a larger proportion of students from higher-income households reported that school lunch purchases decreased, while schools with more lower-income students said that purchases of the healthier meals increased. The schools were chosen as a nationally representative sample of all schools in the U.S.
The research comes at a time when the prevalence of both prediabetes and diabetes in American adolescents are at an all-time high. As people living with diabetes know, diet and diabetes share much in common, and what children eat throughout the school day could set or alter the course toward becoming a diabetic. After all, there are 180 days in the typical school year, meaning 180 lunches for these kids throughout the calendar year.
The new lunch standards were established to fight the obesity epidemic in the U.S., but they may work to kill two birds with one stone - obesity and diabetes. The heavier a child is, the higher his or her risk of developing diabetes.
In a separate study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this past spring, researchers discovered that students were eating more fruits and vegetables under the new guidelines.
Though there is still plenty of room for improvement, eating healthy is a pillar of proper diabetes care.
To learn more about children and diabetes: