Louisiana Schools Can Foster Healthy Eating Habits for Students
Well-Ahead Louisiana works to create healthy schools across the state through programs that encourage students of all ages to practice healthy eating. A healthy school nutrition environment provides students with nutritious and appealing foods and beverages, consistent and accurate messages about good nutrition, and ways to learn about and practice healthy eating throughout the time children spend on school grounds. When students are healthier, they do better in school and are more likely to have better outcomes in adulthood.
Low-Cost Strategies to Support Healthy Choices
Promote Healthy Foods and Beverages
Students are exposed to food and beverage advertisements while on campus through posters, vending machine signage, scoreboards and even textbooks. To ensure students see healthy messaging, school districts can implement policies and practices that promote food and beverages that are part of a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables and plain water. Schools may also consider:
- Conducting taste tests of new menu items and asking for feedback
- Placing nutritious items where they are easily visible and accessible
- Creating attractive displays for fruits and vegetables
- Lowering the cost of nutritious options
- Using signs or verbal prompts encouraging students to select healthy foods
Classroom celebrations, parties and special events related to academic achievement or positive classroom behavior often involve food and beverages. Educators and parents can support student health by providing fruits, vegetables and plain water for in-classroom as well as out-of-school time activities.
Support student health by offering non-food prizes as rewards for good behavior and achievement. Some ideas for non-food rewards include extra recess time, stickers or a note of recognition from a teacher or principal.
Time for Lunch
As part of a healthy school nutrition environment, schools can ensure students have at least 20 minutes once they are seated so they have the opportunity to try healthy foods and enjoy their meal.
Many activities, like handwashing and waiting in line, can shorten the amount time students have to eat. Adequate “seat time” is important because it is associated with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased plate waste.
Providing access to drinking water gives students a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. And, if fluoridated, drinking water can play a role in supporting good oral health.
Federal child nutrition program standards require that free water is made available to students during mealtimes where students are served breakfast and lunch. To further promote drinking water, schools can:
- Ensure that water fountains are clean and properly maintained.
- Provide access to water fountains, dispensers and hydration stations throughout the school.
- Allow students to have water bottles in class or to go to the water fountain if they need to drink water.
Bring Nutrition Education into School
Nutrition education and other activities that give children and adolescents the knowledge and skills to choose and consume healthy foods and beverages can be present in the cafeteria, classroom and school gardens.
Nutrition education should be part of a comprehensive health education curriculum, and can also be incorporated throughout the school day. Stand-alone lessons can be taught in the classroom or in Physical Education and Health classes. Schools can add messages about nutrition and healthy eating to morning announcements, school assemblies, and materials sent home to families.
Louisiana Farm to School
The Louisiana Farm to School program provides training, resources and technical assistance to Louisiana schools interested in implementing farm-to-school activities and nutrition education in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education, Division of Nutrition.
The program provides students access to nutritious, high quality food while farm-to-school activities enhance education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture and nutrition. Students who participate in these activities are more knowledgeable about food and nutrition, willing to try new foods and, on average, consume more fruits and vegetables.
School Meals and Snacks
Louisiana Fit Kids serves as the go-to resource for school meals and for schools that are enrolled in the USDA child nutrition programs in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition. These resources help schools increase education around healthy eating, participation in school meal programs and adherence with USDA nutrition standards.
Research shows students who participate in school meal programs like the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program consume more milk, fruits and vegetables during meal times. Eating breakfast at school is also associated with better attendance rates, fewer missed school days and better test scores.
The program includes resources on:
- Implementing updated meal patterns and nutrition standards
- Professional Standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who operate and manage the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program
- Creating materials about child nutrition
- On-site trainings on a variety of child nutrition topics
- Identifying food items that meet Smart Snacks criteria
- Guidance on creating, updating and revising school wellness plans
Eat to Win
Well-Ahead’s Eat to Win campaign uses positive messaging to encourage students to choose a fruit and vegetable with their school lunch. Generate excitement about healthy eating by including an Eat to Win segment in your daily announcements at least once per week. This should be a reminder to students of your school’s involvement and can include facts and tips to encourage students to make healthy choices. Here are some tools and tips to help make the healthy choice an easy one for students so they can Eat to Win!
This project was funded using U.S. Department of Agriculture grant funds. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider.
Floor decals are a fun reminder for students to choose fruits and vegetables while they wait in the lunch line. Place these sequentially so students will read “Eat,” “to,” “win” as they move through the cafeteria.
Display the Rigid Sign prominently on campus, preferably at the interior entrance so students will see it as a daily reminder to choose fruits and vegetables for lunch.
Place the Photo Frame in a location with minimal visual distractions in the background where students frequently stop or set up a photo booth to encourage them to take photos and post them on their social media along with #EatToWin.
Show parents and stakeholders that your school is encouraging students to Eat to Win through social media. Schools may download the sample posts and social media images for use on their accounts. Don’t forget to tag Well-Ahead Louisiana to let us know how your school supports healthy eating!
The available social media images include two co-branded and two unlabeled graphics. Schools with a logo that are capable of adding their logo to the co-branded social media images, without compromising the quality of the photo, may do so. All other schools should use the two social media images that are unlabeled.
Social Media Images for Elementary Schools:
Social Media Images for High Schools:
Elementary school teachers can use Eat to Win Stickers as a reward for students who choose fruits and vegetables at lunch. Create a lunch chart and place a stamp or check mark alongside the names of students who chose fruits and vegetables at lunch each day. Reward students who earned a check every day, either weekly or monthly.