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Kids' Packed Lunches Are Often Worse Than School Ones

Nov 08, 2014 03:11 PM EST
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When you see a child "brown-bagging it" during lunchtime, it's very likely that that are lucky enough to have a parent who cares about their nutrition and well-being. However, despite how thoughtful a parent may be, junior might be better off if he had just been given some lunch money.
(Photo : Pixabay)

When you see a child "brown-bagging it" during lunchtime, it's very likely that that are lucky enough to have a parent who cares about their nutrition and well-being. However, despite how thoughtful a parent may be, junior might be better off if he had just been given some lunch money.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, which details how packed lunches tend to exceed fat and saturated fat recommendations far more often than school lunches.

Additionally, "we found that both packed and school lunches almost entirely met nutrition standards," lead study author Alisha R. Farris said in a statement.

She added that both brown bag and school lunches had downsides, where packed lunches tend to lack protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium.  Meanwhile school lunches often had too much sodium and had lower levels of carbohydrates, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C, and iron, compared to packed lunches.

This was determined after an observation and assessment of three elementary schools in Virginia that follow national nutritional standards. To keep record of what was brought from home, an observational checklist was used, where each researcher was assigned to keep track of the lunch diets of ten children.

A total of 1,314 lunches were observed, with 42.8% packed and 57.2% provided by the schools.

In both cases, and contrary to popular opinion of school lunches, it was concluded that both packed and bought lunches were adequate sources of essential nutrients. However, depending on the lifestyle of a child, packed lunches could contribute to a higher risk of obesity, from a relative standpoint.

The researchers say these findings are likely to be a result of USDA guidelines promoting higher exposure to fruits and vegetables, while packed lunches were more likely to contain savory snacks, and sugar-sweetened drinks.

"Habits develop in early childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood," added commented lead investigator Elena L. Serrano. "Therefore, this is a critical time to promote healthy eating."

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