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Study: Kids Who Buy School Lunch Less Healthy

school-lunchKids who eat school lunches have higher bad cholesterol and consume twice as many fatty meats and sugary drinks, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Children who purchased lunches were more likely to be obese, at 39 percent, while 24 percent of those who brought lunches from home were obese. Other numbers were more worrisome: lunch-buyers ate fatty meats at much higher rates (26 percent versus 11 percent); and drank far more sugary beverages (36 percent versus 14 percent). They also ate far fewer vegetables and fruits. Only 16 percent of kids who bought school lunches reported fruit or vegetable consumption versus 91 percent of kids who brought lunch from home.

While the press release didn’t address this, a major concern with these findings is that for many kids living in poverty, the school lunch is the only full meal they get all day. If that meal isn’t healthy, little else they get that day will be.

School lunches have long been an area of concern, because in an effort to make them appealing to kids, school nutrition program leaders often rely on less than healthful options. Just glancing at the school lunch options at my daughter’s school, today’s lunch is nachos and later this week is chicken nuggets and potato stars.

1,297 schoolchildren participated in the study over a three-year period. They reported what they consumed during their entire day and their level of physical activity. Researchers also collected data on each child’s weight, height and cholesterol levels. The study, which was funded by the Atkins Foundation, the Thompson Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, was released Friday at the American College of Cardiology 59th Annual Scientific Sessions in Atlanta.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialkrb/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

“>SpecialKRB via flickr

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