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School Lunches More Nutritious Than Homemade

ORLANDO—Kids who eat lunches prepared at school typically receive more fruits, vegetables and dairy compared to kids who bring lunches from home, which usually contain snacks high in sugar or fat and non-100% fruit juice, according to new research presented at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting.

"It's interesting because many parents may pack a child's lunch in order to provide a healthier option, but we actually found that when the kids were choosing their lunch from the lunch line, they were more likely to have some of those foods like fruits and vegetables that we're hoping that kids include in their diet," said Jennette Palcic Moreno, PhD, of the Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston, who presented the research. "Possibly something needs to be done in terms of interventions in order to improve the nutritious value of the lunches that are brought from home."

As reported by MedPage Today, the researchers compared the quality of school lunches offered by the National School Lunch Program with those packed at home among second graders at seven schools in Houston. The researchers analyzed the contents of 2,107 lunches, of which 38.5% were brought from home. Children who opted for the school lunch could choose any of the foods and drinks from the lunch line. None of the children had access to other sources of food on school grounds. Compared with the school lunch, those packed at home were significantly less likely to contain fruits (45.3% versus 75.9%), vegetables (13.2% versus 29.1%) and dairy (41.8% versus 70%). Lunches brought from home also contained snacks that were high in sugar or fat and non-100% fruit juice or other fruit drinks.

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