Eating Healthier at School

Elementary Pupils Enjoying Healthy Lunch In Cafeteria

Kids learn better eating habits when schools provide healthy foods. Find out what you can do to promote nutritious foods at your school.

Ensure Families Get Information About School Meal Programs

Schools play an important role in shaping lifelong healthy eating habits by offering nutritious meals. Many schools provide students with meals through the federal National School Lunch Programexternal icon and School Breakfast Programexternal icon. All students can participate in school meal programs. Some students can receive free or reduced-price meals. School meals offer milk, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and key nutrients like calcium and fiber.

Encourage Students to Start Their Day With School Breakfast

Healthy students are better learners. Research shows that eating habits pdf icon[PDF – 480 KB] and healthy behaviors are connected to academic achievement. Student participation in the School Breakfast Program is associated with higher academic grades and standardized test scores, reduced absences, and improved memory.

Give Students Enough Time to Eat School Lunch

Schools can help teach students the importance of eating healthier by making it easy to eat nutritious food.  Schools can provide nutrition education, give students opportunities to try new foods before they appear on the menu, and ensure that students have at least 20 minutes once they are seated to enjoy their meal and socialize.

Boy eating breakfast in classroom

Promote Healthy Eating Throughout the School Day

Schools can use the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) approach to promote nutritious snacks outside of the federal school meal programs. Parents can take part in promoting healthy eating in school by asking that healthy foods and beverages are available at school events, celebrations, and fundraisers. CDC’s Parents for Healthy Schools offers more ideas on how to get involved.

Make Nutrition Education an Important Part of Instruction

Nutrition education is part of a comprehensive health education curriculum but can also be included in other classes. School staff can consider ways to add nutrition education into the existing schedule and in various locations within the school. For example, nutrition education can be combined into other subjects taught in the classroom including:

  • Counting with pictures of fruits and vegetables.
  • Learning fractions by measuring ingredients for a recipe.
  • Examining how plants grow.
  • Learning about cultural food traditions.

More information