Kids' bag lunches chock-full of fat, salt and sugar

November 12, 2002 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Weight Management

Kids' bag lunches chock-full of fat, salt and sugar

A survey of lunches American fourth graders bring from home reveals that the most common foods contain high levels of fat, calories, sugar and sodium. The majority of the lunches contained potato chips or sweets and only 2 out of 147 lunches included vegetables. The research was conducted at Fontbonne University in St. Louis.

These early eating patterns could have long-lasting effects into adulthood, the researchers say. Most of the lunches contained sweets, chips and deli meat sandwiches on white bread. Around one third of the home-packed meals contained fruit, and only 2 included a vegetable. On 15 occasions, the children bought milk to go along with their meal, half of which was chocolate-flavored.

In terms of why kids don't bring healthier lunches to school, the researchers said that parents may feel they don't have the time to prepare something nutritious, relying instead on pre-packaged foods such as chips, juice boxes--which are often no more than sugar water--and sweets. In addition, kids may experience peer pressure to eat certain foods, and to refuse healthier choices such as fruits and vegetables.

If parents want their children to learn healthy eating habits, they may need to tell their child that one treat is fine, but a lunch full of treats is not.

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