Healthier meals in schools are encouraging children to be more open about what they eat at home, according to new research for the School Food Trust (SFT).
A survey of 1,000 parents of primary and secondary school children found more than 80% of those with children that ate school meals said their youngsters had tried new foods at school.
This in turn had been beneficial at home, with half (50%) of parents reporting they had been asked to make dishes at home that their children had eaten at school.
Rob Rees, chairman of the SFT, said: "Every parent knows it's a nightmare watching their child push food around the plate. School meals can be a great way to help parents encourage their children to try new foods and to increase the variety of foods in their diet.
"What's more, we are starting to see a shift in children's habits since the introduction of new standards for school food. Our research in primary schools has shown that children eating school meals do have healthier options on their plates than they did five years ago."
The poll also found that carrots, sweet corn and peas remained the most popular vegetables for children, with aubergine, chickpeas and spinach among the least favourite.
The latest school dinners data from the SFT found that in primary schools, the proportion of children eating a school lunch rose from 39.3% in 2008-09 to 41.4% in 2009-10, a 2.1 percentage-point increase. Secondary schools saw a 0.8 percentage-point rise, from 35% in 2008-09 to 35.8% in 2009-10.
By Chris Druce
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