School lunches v. packed lunches: a comparison of secondary schools in England following the introduction of compulsory school food standards.Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jun; 16(6):1037-42.PH
To compare food choices and nutrient intakes of pupils taking a school lunch or a packed lunch in eighty secondary schools in England, following the introduction of the food-based and nutrient-based standards for school food.
Cross-sectional data collected between October 2010 and April 2011. Pupils' lunchtime food choices were recorded over five consecutive days.
Secondary schools, England.
A random selection of 5925 pupils having school lunches and 1805 pupils having a packed lunch in a nationally representative sample of eighty secondary schools in England.
The differences in the specific types of food and drink consumed by the two groups of pupils are typical of differences between a hot and cold meal. On average, school lunches as eaten contained significantly more energy, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, vitamin A, folate, Fe and Zn than packed lunches, and 8 % less Na.
Although neither school lunches nor packed lunches provided the balance of nutrients required to meet the nutrient-based standards (based on about one-third of daily energy and nutrient requirements), school lunches generally had a healthier nutrient profile, with lower Na and percentage of energy from fat, and higher fibre and micronutrient content. These differences were greater than those reported prior to the introduction of compulsory standards for school lunches. In order to ensure more pupils have a healthy lunch, schools could introduce and enforce a packed lunch policy or make school meals the only option at lunchtime.