The quality of midday meals eaten at school by adolescents; school lunches compared with packed lunches and their contribution to total energy and nutrient intakes.
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OBJECTIVE: To compare food and nutrient intakes from midday meals provided by schools with those from packed lunches and to estimate the contribution from food eaten at midday to the total daily energy and nutrient intakes of teenagers.
DESIGN: Dietary data were recorded in 4 d estimated diaries of which 2 d were school days. The school day data were analysed for total and midday energy and nutrient intakes. The latter were compared with the recommendations of the Caroline Walker Trust (CWT).
SETTING: Cambridgeshire, UK, 2006.
SUBJECTS: Teenagers (n 757) aged 14-15 years, from eighteen secondary schools, who reported food eaten at school.
RESULTS: The contribution to total daily energy intake from all lunches eaten at school was 29 % (boys) and 28 % (girls). School meals provided greater quantities of protein, starch, carotene and folate but also more saturated fats and Na than packed lunches. Intakes of energy and several nutrients fell below the CWT recommendations for both types of lunch. School meals and packed lunches provided different types of foods; greater quantities of rice, pasta and vegetables in school meals; more yoghurt, cheese, fruit and juices but also more confectionery and soft drinks in packed lunches.
CONCLUSIONS: There has been concern that schoolchildren who are not opting for lunch provided by schools are compromising the overall quality of their diet, but the present study showed small differences in nutrient content between packed and school lunches. These data were collected in 2005-2007 before the government programme of improvements reached secondary schools.