It’s no secret that schools have a reputation for providing students with food items that are not very healthy. But by offering healthier options in school vending machines and in the a la carte lines, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the overall diet of students improve.

It’s actually very simple – if you provide the healthy foods, many of the children will eat them. According to a study performed by Michigan State University, when healthy foods are offered either a la carte or through vending programs at schools, middle school-aged kids ate 26 percent more fruit, 14 percent more vegetables and 30 percent more whole grains over the course of a day. Moreover, the schools that participated in the study observed that the students’ diets had improved through the consumption of more calcium, vitamins A and C and fiber.

A large factor in the obesity and chronic health problems of children, such as diabetes and coronary artery disease, may be the amount of food that is purchased from vending machines. The foods that children are eating will more than likely influence their eating habits as adults as well, posing even more health and diet risks. But with a shocking 88 percent of high schools, 52 percent of middle schools, and 16 percent of elementary schools having vending machines available, students will probably opt for the sugary item for its convenience.

These numbers are concerning and pose a huge health risk considering that those who consume items from vending machines have significantly higher sugar intakes and lower dietary fiber, vitamin B levels and iron intakes than those who do not.

Think about some the items that vending machines offer: soft drinks, candy, chips, and cookies. About two-thirds of the items accounted for in school vending machines are soft drinks; deserts and fried snacks rank highly as well. By providing healthier options, such as milk and fruit juice, students have a better chance at avoiding health problems in the future.

It is highly recommended that school administrators design guidelines restricting vended and competitive foods and beverages to those that are full of nutrients. School foodservice personnel may even consider creating materials and displays to promote more healthful foods such as fresh fruit, yogurt, low-fat milk, juice and sandwiches.
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