Students’ Food Intake from Home-Packed Lunches in the Traditional versus Balanced School Day.
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To assess the type and quantity of foods children brought and consumed at school in the balanced school day (BSD), with two 20-minute eating periods, versus the traditional schedule (TS), with one 20-minute lunch.
Direct observation identified food items and amounts in BSD and TS lunches of grade 3 and 4 students (n = 321).
The mean (SD) servings of foods packed in BSD lunches were significantly higher than the TS lunches for milk and alternatives (0.69 (0.70) vs 0.47 (0.49), P = 0.02), sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs; 0.91 (1.24) vs 0.57 (0.99), P = 0.01), and snacks (2.74 (1.55) vs 2.24 (1.48), P < 0.01). Regardless of schedule, only 40.8% of students had vegetables packed in their lunch, whereas 92.8% had snacks. When comparing foods eaten, SSBs and snacks remained significantly higher in the BSD (0.75 (1.02) vs 0.48 (0.83), P = 0.03; 2.37 (1.44) vs 1.93 (1.36), P = 0.01, respectively). The proportion of children (%) whose consumption met one-third of Canada's Food Guide recommendations for vegetables and fruit was low (27.5% BSD, 31.0% TS).
The BSD may have unintended negative consequences on the type and amount of foods packed in school lunches. Support for families should focus on encouraging more vegetables and fruit and fewer SSBs and snacks in packed lunches.