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03/14/2014 12:46 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2014

Why School Concession Stands Shouldn't Be Afraid To Sell Healthy Foods

Stuart Dee via Getty Images

When you think of school concession stand offerings, unhealthy items like hot dogs, nachos and candy probably come to mind. But a new study suggests that these concession stands -- which are often run by booster clubs to raise money for school programs -- won't lose out on revenue by offering healthier items like apples and string cheese.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, involved having the booster club in Muscatine, Iowa, add healthy foods to their concession stand offerings and make already-available concession staples healthier during Muscatine High School football, volleyball and swim games and meets in fall 2009.

The healthier options included apples, granola bars, pickles, string cheese, soft pretzels, chicken sandwiches, carrots and dip and trail mix. Meanwhile, the healthy changes for the typical concession foods included eliminating trans fats from the snacks and using healthier oil for the popcorn.

Researchers followed up with the club after one full season, and found that the sales and revenues stayed stable even with the healthy food additions. A little more than 9 percent of the concession sales were of healthy foods. And average sales at varsity football games in particular increased the year the healthy foods were offered ($6,849 in 2009, compared with $6,599 in 2008).

The most popular healthier options included chicken sandwiches and pretzels, making up 7.6 percent of all the food sales. Carrots and dip were popular snacks during benign weather when games were outdoors, while trail mix and granola bars were more popular during indoor games.

"Booster groups have worried that healthier items wouldn't sell, and it's important for them to make money to support student activities," study researcher Helena Laroche, an assistant professor in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. "This shows it can be done."

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