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Shorter School Lunch Leading To Unhealthy Habits?

Could shorter lunch periods contribute to childhood obesity?

lunch

Photo: Angela Payne (Flickr)

Lunch periods have become shorter over time -- in 2003, students had five or so more minutes than in 2009.

As schools increase their attack on childhood obesity, a growing concern among nutritionists is how much –  or how little — time students have to eat their lunch.

Shrinking Lunch Periods

A survey by the School Nutrition Association found that elementary school children had 25 minutes to eat on average, and older students in middle and high school had up to 30 minutes.

After subtracting the time it takes to use the restroom, go through the lunch line and be seated, that could leave only 10 or 15 minutes to eat.

A small amount of time to eat affects children in a number of ways. First of all, children who eat quickly aren’t as satisfied and may feel hungry faster after the meal. Children may eat their favorite foods first on a tray and toss other foods they didn’t have time to eat, like vegetables.

Finally, healthy food simply takes more time to eat.

“It takes more time to chew a whole apple than applesauce,” says president of the School Nutrition Association Helen Phillips. “Eating an entree salad takes longer than eating a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets, because of the crunching and chewing of the raw vegetables.”

Read More:

  • Cutting short lunch time in school may lead to obesity (USA Today)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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