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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard Finds Chef-enhanced School Meals Increase Healthy Food Consumption

Schools collaborating with a professionally trained chef to improve the taste of healthy meals significantly increased students’ fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that using “choice architecture” (environmental nudges to promote healthy choices) in school cafeterias improved students’ selection of fruits and vegetables, but did not increase consumption over the long-term. The study is the first to examine the long-term impact of choice architecture and chef-enhanced meals in school cafeterias on selection and consumption of healthier foods.

“The results highlight the importance of focusing on the palatability of school meals. Partnerships with chefs can lead to substantial improvements in the quality of school meals and can be an economically feasible option for schools,” said lead author Dr. Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan. “Additionally, this study shows that schools should not abandon healthier foods if they are initially met with resistance by students.”

The study was published online in JAMA Pediatrics, March 23. Read more