Children whose school lunch programs allow them to choose their own entrees and side dishes may select foods with adequate amounts of essential vitamins and nutrients, but they may not actually end up consuming these nutrients, according to a new report. Instead, large amounts of the food may end up in the trash.
Researchers from of the Graduate School at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas evaluated food choices and nutrient consumption among students in a midwestern elementary school. Students were required to select an entree and a half pint of milk. Vegetables, fruits, bread and desserts were optional.
The youth generally chose meals that contained recommended amounts of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C, but they often did not eat everything on their plates. As a result, the students' nutrient consumption did not meet nutritional requirements for energy, iron and vitamin A. As might be expected, vegetables were the least popular food items on the school menu, with the exception of French fries, hash browns and other potato dishes.
They don't eat certain fruits and vegetables sometimes, because they're not familiar with them, say researchers. If students are not introduced to certain food items at home, they won't know what they are when they are served in school. Many students selected breads and desserts, but still between 6% and 20% of these items were also discarded, the report indicates.
In light of the findings, the researchers advise parents to reinforce the nutrition education message that students receive in school. They should teach children to eat things other than starches and introduce them to many different types of fruits and vegetables, she said.
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