Although most people older than 18 wouldn’t rave about the hot lunches served in schools when they were growing up, adults might be pleasantly surprised by the changes schools have made in their meal programs. Because of the requirements in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010, students are being served more whole grains, fat-free and low fat milk, and meals with no trans fats and reduced levels of sodium and saturated fats. Schools serve more fruits and vegetables so students benefit from the nutrients, fiber, anti-oxidants and proteins.
This helps meet a Benton and Franklin Counties Community Health Improvement Plan objective of increasing the percentage of people who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The impact is substantial. Together, the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school districts serve approximately 24,800 lunches and 9,200 breakfasts each day.
For lunch, students are served 1/2 cup or more of vegetables. Because vegetables provide different nutrients, school lunches are required to serve dark green, red or orange, legumes, and starchy vegetables every week. That’s a good goal for any family. The recipe accompanying this article includes all of those vegetables.
Obviously serving vegetables is one thing, but getting students to eat them is another. Schools are, however, finding some success. They have events presenting the health benefits of eating vegetables, they arrange vegetables attractively and cafeteria personnel encourage students to eat them.
It turns out that all of us are susceptible to these strategies. In fact, we are more easily manipulated than we realize. Researchers have found that they can give people two samples of food that are identical, and people will say that they like the food better that has the more appealing name. Restaurants and food companies exploit this. So can you.
If there’s a member of your family who absolutely refuses to eat vegetables, you may want to resort to hiding vegetables. A 2011 article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults unknowingly ate and enjoyed a pound of pureed vegetables a day when camouflaged in meals such as spaghetti sauce and casseroles.
If subterfuge isn’t your style, consider growing some vegetables, since fresh veggies taste the best. If you don’t have garden space, use pots that are the same volume (in gallons) as the plant will be tall. Look for patio, bush or compact varieties of herbs, tomatoes, beans, summer squash, peppers and eggplants. Use quality potting mix, and place in a spot out of the wind that gets six or more hours of sun daily. Water when the top inch of the soil is dry, fertilize and enjoy your harvest.