NPR logo

Kids Will Eat Their Vegetables

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Kids Will Eat Their Vegetables

Children's Health

Kids Will Eat Their Vegetables

Kids Will Eat Their Vegetables

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Studies show that kids' eating habits can be improved when they're exposed to healthier choices. That's the lesson from a Los Angeles experiment placing salad bars in schools.


And we're not done with The Most. One the most e-mailed stories at right now, it's number 12 with a bullet. The story aired yesterday on MORNING EDITION. It's about salad bars for elementary schools. The statistics are only one third of U.S. children eat the recommended 3-5 servings of vegetables per day. And only a quarter eat enough fruit. So schools are trying to teach better eating habits.

Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.

PATTI NEIGHMOND: Meet school dietitian Ivy Marx. Marx is upbeat and energetic, and she has a mission over the past seven years. She's helped set up 60 salad bars in Los Angeles public schools.

Ms. IVY MARX (School dietitian): I'm a believer that we have to expose our kids to these choices early on so that they're accustomed to eating fruits and vegetables, so that as they grow up, they're going to continue to want to feed their bodies with these good foods.

Unidentified Child #1: Get a sandwich.

NEIGHMOND: Marx says the kids love salad bars. It's the adults who are skeptical.

Ms. MARX: Today, I'm evaluating Logan Elementary School to determine if we could implement a fruit and vegetable bar at their school.

NEIGHMOND: Principal Diane Ramirez' concerns are typical.

Ms. DIANE RAMIREZ (Principal, Logan Elementary School): How do we fit this into the space we have and get the children through the bar, seat them eating in the 45-minute time slot that they have. So that's going to be the challenge.

NEIGHMOND: Surveying the lunch room, Ramirez and Marx try to figure out just how student traffic could be rearranged to accommodate the salad bar.

Ms. MARX: So if you can imagine this table is gone, you have a bar in this direction. So as soon as the kids come from the line, they will go directly to the bar. So, I'm envisioning that it won't slow it down that much because they're already standing in line, waiting. So while they're waiting, they can be making their selections.

Ms. RAMIREZ: For their fruits and vegetables.

Ms. MARX: Exactly. And then, they'll - it will lead them right up to the entree windows.

Ms. RAMIREZ: I think it might work.

Ms. MARX: Yeah.

Ms. RAMIREZ: It's worth the try. Instead of just standing there, really have an opportunity to make some choices. I'm willing to give it a try.

(Soundbite of people talking)

NEIGHMOND: Dayton Heights Elementary School, another of Ivy Marx's salad bars, with surprising precision in some direction. Students enter the cafeteria, split into two lines, and use tongs to help themselves to fruits and vegetables.

(Soundbite of people talking)

Unidentified Child #2: Cool.

Unidentified Child #3: Kiwi.

Unidentified Child #2: There are lots of things to eat and they're all healthy.

NEIGHMOND: Getting the kids to try these foods took some effort. There were assemblies about nutrition. And teacher Marina Morales organized the harvest of the month, where different fruits and vegetables are talked about and tasted.

Ms. MARINA MORALES (Teacher, Dayton Heights Elementary School): I sometimes do cooking lessons with them. And we definitely do science, math, we weigh things. We measure things.

NEIGHMOND: Count seeds.

Ms. MORALES: We - yeah, we have done that. Counting seeds. We talk about attributes, like, you know, the color, size of something, comparing them. But the other thing that I find interesting is the harvest of the month produce is also featured in the salad bar.

NEIGHMOND: So, when kids saw jicama at the salad bar, they already knew what it was and what it tasted like, something as assistant principal Christopher Etan puts it, only increases their dietary horizons.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER ETAN (Assistant Principal): When we have a particularly foreign-looking object in the salad bar, I'm almost like a peddler on the street. I know that you would love to try this, and sometimes I help children make choices…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ETON: …we encourage them to be adventurous.

NEIGHMOND: At UCLA, pediatrician Wendy Slusser headed a study, which found that after two years, students at L.A. schools with salad bars increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by one full serving a day.

Dr. WENDY SLUSSER (Pediatrician, UCLA): And they also displaced fatty foods, so in other words, they were more - they were eating much more a variety of fruits and vegetables after the salad bar, and then they were also eating lower amounts of cholesterol significantly and less saturated fats.

Unidentified Child #4: I picked some apples and some oranges.

Unidentified Child #5: Since there's lettuce and salads, now I eat them at home, too.

Unidentified Child #6: Definitely try new things.

Unidentified Child #7: Cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.

NEIGHMOND: Choices you might begin to hear more and more as nationwide, school districts like Los Angeles work to offer kids healthier lunches, including salad bars.

STEWART: That's NPR's Patti Neighmond reporting. You can find this story and more of the most emailed stories you hear on the BPP by clicking on the blog:

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.