New Research Shows How Children Want Their Food Served

The aim of research from the Future Consumer Lab was to investigate whether children prefer their food served in a particular way and whether their gender and age make a difference with regard to their preferences.

The researchers asked 100 schoolchildren, aged seven to eight and 12 to 14 years, to make a priority list of photos of six different dishes served in three different ways:

  1. With the elements of the food presented separately so they did not touch each other
  2. As a mix of separate ingredients and ingredients that were mixed together
  3. With all the food mixed together

From the children’s prioritisation of the displayed photos, the researchers could see which presentation of the food they liked best and which serving style they least cared for. The study shows that the younger girls (aged seven to eight) prefer the separate serving , while boys of the same age do not have a preference for how the food is arranged. The research also shows that children between 12 and 14 prefer food to be either mixed together or served as a mix of separate and mixed-together ingredients.

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Apply Now for Free and Reduced School Meals

Did you know your student may qualify for special meal benefits offered at school? These benefits include meals offered at reduced prices or at no charge to those who qualify. To find out if your family qualifies, fill out a meal benefits application at

Healthy Recipes

Looking for fun things to do with your kids for the remainder of the summer? Consider teaching them about the importance of a balanced diet and how to prepare nutritious meals. Explore a collection of simple, healthy recipes to try out with your kids as a collaborative summer activity!

Free Summer Meals for Students in Need

School is almost out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean students who depend on school lunches have to go hungry. USDA’s Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals to kids in need all over the country. Learn more about the program and find a distribution site near your school.

Pack a Snack

Planning for healthy snacks can help satisfy hunger in between meals and keep you moving towards your food group goals.

Keep a handful of unsalted nuts or dried fruit in your bag or car for your or your kids.  It’s a simple way to have healthy snacks on hand when hunger strikes.


Family Dinnertime Tips

When your family finds the time to sit together around the table (or sit down to a snack at your kid’s soccer game or talk over breakfast-on-the-go in the car), try these tips for making the most out of family mealtime and connecting with your kids from Lynn Barendsen, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit organization that champions the benefits of family dinners works to give families the tools and information to make family meals a regular part of their lives.

Start small and find windows of time
Can’t find the time for dinner every night? Try for a couple of nights a week. Some other potential times to talk are over breakfast or in the car, or even over a quick snack or sandwiches at your child’s after-school activity.

Choose meals that are quick to assemble and cook ahead of time

Easy-to-freeze foods, like stews, casseroles, and lasagna, are a busy family’s best friend.  Cook some extra on the weekends and freeze, then thaw and serve with some steamed veggies during the week.

Turn off the TV

Having dinner together does not mean fast food in front of the TV, with kids in one room and parents in front of another TV.  The important thing is to connect and talk, not stare at a screen.

Put away the phones

Ask your kids to put away their phones before coming to the table. (You can designate an area on a table or counter as the cell phone area, and have everyone put their phones there.) And be sure you follow the rule, too.

Make dinnertime fun

Let kids choose music and go shopping for food together.  Choose some nice music for dinner and cleanup time, and play silly games or just talk–about books, friends, their day–whatever topics interest you and your kids.

Really listen

When you’re doing routine things together, like sharing a meal, your child will be more likely to share something that’s on his mind. Use this time to get closer to your child, and share something about yourself and your day.

Celebrate Your School Lunch Hero

School Nutrition Employee Week: May 2-6, 2016

Between preparing healthy meals for America’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes!

School Lunch Hero Day

School Lunch Hero Day is the first Friday in May – May 6, 2016.  Click here for ideas to celebrate your school lunch hero and share your pictures with us!

Plan Family Meals and Exercise

family bike rideAdapted from Healthfinder

To help keep your family healthier physically and emotionally, plan to do things together.

Here are suggestions from the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • Set a good example by making healthier food choices and exercising regularly. Make a commitment as a family to getting and staying healthy.
  • Cook more often at home. The food probably will be healthier, and eating is a great activity for the entire family. Offer a healthy breakfast every day.
  • Involve your children in planning and creating healthy meals. Serve healthier snacks and foods, such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid sweets and chips.
  • Encourage children to learn and listen to their body’s signals for hunger and fullness. Show them that you only eat when hungry, not bored, angry or sad.
  • Get outside to exercise and play, and encourage physical activities. Limit screen time