School Lunch Timing and Children's Physical Activity During Recess: An Exploratory Study

Gabriella M. McLoughlin, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Alicia Jones, Morgan R. Chojnacki, Nicholas W. Baumgartner, Anne D. Walk, Amelia M. Woods, Kim C. Graber, Naiman A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the relationship between school lunch timing (before vs after recess) on physical activity (PA) during recess and energy balance and food intake at lunch. Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used to examine lunch intake and PA during recess among fourth- and fifth-graders (n = 103) over 5 school days. Lunch and PA were measured using a weighted plate waste technique and accelerometry, respectively. Results: Children who received lunch before recess accumulated lower residual energy (ie, energy intake at lunch minus energy expenditure during recess) and consumed a greater proportion of milk servings. No timing effects were observed for other lunch and PA variables. Conclusions and Implications: Lunch intake and activity during recess are related to lunch timing policy. Findings warrant further examination using experimental and quasi-experimental studies to better understand the impact of timing on health behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-622
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • plate waste
  • policy
  • recess
  • school health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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