Less than two in every 100 home-packed school lunches eaten by children in primary schools in the UK meet acceptable nutritional standards, says a study conducted by University of Leeds. Researchers analysed the nutritional quality of packed lunches in a sample of primary schools in 2006 and again in 2016. The results, published in the online journal BMJ Open (January), indicate that although the amount of sugary foods in lunch boxes has declined over ten years, it is still higher than recommended. Moreover only one in five children has a vegetable or salad packed in their lunch box.
The study found that foods containing vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc, i.e, fresh fruit, salad, vegetables and unprocessed meat or fish, were inadequate. Plant-based fillings such as humous or vegetable spreads made up less than 1 percent of packed school lunches.
“The research has found that on some fronts, packed lunches have improved but they are still dominated by sweet and savoury snack food and sugary drinks. The vast majority of primary school children suffer poor nutrition. Improving what children eat at school reduces the risk of childhood obesity,” says Dr. Charlotte Evans, associate professor, School of Food Science and Nutrition, Leeds University.